Huxley believed that his version of dystopia was the more plausible one. In a 1949 letter, thanking Orwell for sending him a copy of “1984,” he wrote that he really didn’t think all that torture and jackbooting was necessary to subdue a population, and that he believed his own book offered a better solution. All you need to do, he said, is teach people to love their servitude. The totalitarian rulers in Huxley’s book do this not by oppressing their citizens but by giving them exactly what they want, or what they think they want — which is basically sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll — and lulling them into complacency. The system entails a certain Trump-like suspicion of science and dismissal of history, but that’s a price the inhabitants of Huxley’s world happily pay. They don’t mourn their lost liberty, the way Orwell’s Winston Smith does; they don’t even know it’s gone.
Siddhartha DebThere is much in Orwell’s novel that translates poorly into the contemporary moment. There exists a comfortably predictable and, to my mind, uninspired approach to the dystopic novel and its powers of prognosis, a Pavlovian response that involves reaching for a copy of George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” whenever extreme turbulence hits the West. Together they make up a short reading list, if a rather familiar one, redolent of high school literature classes and expanding, if forced, to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” That’s it, we’re done — a brief tour in four books to dystopias where the individual’s sense of freedom is always under threat from the totalitarian state.
The last few months have been hard, no doubt, the news more distressing by the hour, but there is still something perversely groupthinkish in the fact that the impulse of resistance has homed in on the same book, and that a measure of opposition to the horrors of the Trump administration is the climb of “1984” to No. 1 on Amazon. There is much in Orwell’s novel, in fact, that translates poorly into the contemporary moment. From its texture of material deprivation, the loosely packed cigarettes and boiled cabbages recalling wartime rationing in Britain, to its portrayal of Ingsoc, Big Brother and various Ministries (Truth, Peace, Love, Plenty), all of which assume control by a heavily centralized State, it is a work very much of the ’40s as experienced by an English intellectual.
In “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” the American media critic Neil Postman in fact argued that Huxley’s novel was far more relevant than Orwell’s when it came to the United States, where the dominant mode of control over people was through entertainment, distraction, and superficial pleasure rather than through overt modes of policing and strict control over food supplies, at least when it came to managing the middle classes. Three decades after Postman’s account, when we can add reality television, the internet and social media to the deadly amusements available, “Brave New World” can still seem strikingly relevant in its depiction of the relentless pursuit of pleasure. From the use of soma as a kind of happiness drug to the erasure of the past not so much as a threat to government, as is the case in Orwell’s dystopia, but as simply irrelevant (“History is bunk”), Huxley marked out amusement and superficiality as the buttons that control behavior.
His relentless focus on the body, too, seems inspired, his understanding of what Michel Foucault identified as “biopolitics,” extending to the individual body as well as to entire populations and, in “Brave New World,” playing out as a eugenic system based on caste, class, race, looks and size. As for his depiction of the “savage reservation” in New Mexico, this seems to foreshadow the fetishization of the natural on the part of one of the most artifice-ridden populations in the history of the world.
A great deal funnier, subtler and darker than Orwell’s book, Huxley’s satire nevertheless has its limitations. A World State? Games of escalator squash? In any case, why stop at one of two books, as if the literary realm must mimic the denuded, lesser-of-two-evils choices of electoral politics? There are other powerful fictional dystopias that speak to the United States of today, including a significant portion of the oeuvre of Philip K. Dick and Octavia E. Butler. There is J.G. Ballard’s hallucinatory Reagan-era “Hello America,” with a future United States that has many contending presidents, including President Manson, who plays nuclear roulette in Las Vegas. Why not read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and Sandra Newman’s “The Country of Ice Cream Star” and Anna North’s “America Pacifica” and Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” and Claire Vaye Watkins’s “Gold Fame Citrus” and Vanessa Veselka’s “Zazen” and Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Water Knife”? If the world is going dark, we may as well read as much as possible before someone turns off the light.Continue reading the main story
1984 vs. Brave New World
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There are lots of ways to compare 1984 by George Orwell to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. They both have to do with very futuristic ideas.
I noticed that they both had basically the same character structure. In 1984, there is the leading lady Julia, and in Brave New World, there is Lenina Crowne.
The main male character in 1984 is of course Winston Smith, and the leading man in Brave New World is a cross between Bernard Marx and John the so-called savage.
There are also two god-like figures in
the novels. I noticed this. One is O'Brien from 1984 and the other is
Mustapha Mond from Brave New World.
The basic ideas of the two novels are also similar. They have to do with rebellion against the so-called perfect new world and the sanctuary
they find at the end. John the savage found peace by hanging himself. (It
was hard to notice that, but I did. It made an excellent ending to the novel.)
Bernard found peace by being transferred to an island where things were different and supposedly better. Winston found peace by being brainwashed into becoming a person with a totally different personality so that things felt more agreeable.
A highly discussed topic in both of the books was sex. In 1984,
Winston felt like sex was a rebellion. He is drawn to his lover Julia because
she is corrupt and she enjoys sex, although she hides it by being a member of the "anti sex rally". In Brave New World, sex isn't looked upon as a crime, nor is pleasure. In fact, sex is promoted. As long as everyone uses regulation birth control and no one gives birth to a child naturally, then sex is considered perfectly normal. It is even promoted with the children who are decanted, which means that the Utopian embryos are taken out of the bottles in which they've matured. The sexual activities the children participate in is called "erotic play", in which they run around naked exploring one another's bodies in which ever way they please. It is designed to forestall any adult feelings of guilt concerning sex when they are older.
So that is one way in which the two stories differ. One promotes sex where
the other doesn't and actually demotes it.
I will now compare Lenina Crowne to Julia. Lenina Crowne is a girl who would be described as voluptuous or the majority of the Utopian society in which she lives call her pneumatic.
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Brave New World Winston Smith Birth Control Bottles Ending Hanging Erotic Embryos
It is obvious that Lenina's life revolves around sex and amusements, and also that the men find her to be extremely attractive. Julia is a simple woman who uses sex for fun as well as for rebellion and hides her personality behind her good girl image. She stands for something forbidden. And both of the girls end up betraying their lovers in the end.
Bernard Marx and Winston Smith are two characters who are extremely alike. They both know that there is something different about them than from anyone else. They're rebellious and as far as they know, they might be the only men of their kind. They have forbidden thoughts and are considered odd by others.
Another interesting point is that both of the novels have machines that tell you things while you're sleeping. In 1984 it is the telescreen and in Brave New World it is called hypnopaedia. The telescreen is a giant tv screen in every public and private place that both transmits Party propaganda and entertainment, and keeps and eye on Party members, looking for traces of thoughtcrime. Hypnopaedia is teaching during sleep.
If I were to choose which society to live in, I would probably choose to live in the Utopian society rather than Oceania. Although both novels are extremely negative, I'd rather be safe and have fun and even be brainwashed then be hiding my true thoughts and living in fear.
Overall, I think both books were very cleverly written and excellent examples for what novels about the future should be like. I think the most common topic for stories is rebellion. Think of Animal Farm which is also by George Orwell. It has to do with animals rebelling against the farmers. The topic of futuristic rebellion is definitely used in lots of ways.