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Brave New World and the Marxist Theory
Transcript of Brave New World and the Marxist Theory
Brave New World,
by Aldous Huxley, deals with many controversial ideas and subjects. One of these many ideas is the theory of Marxism. Throughout Huxley's novel, there are many references and allusions toward Marxism, as well as many points that both support and oppose its various concepts.
The Life of Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley was born in Godalming, England on July 26th, 1894. He was an educated man, attending Eton from 1908 to 1913, and having a biographer, editor, and poet for a father. His teenage years were however, extremely unfortunate. His mother died when he was fourteen, and later he contracted the illness "Keratitis Punctata" which caused him permanent partial blindness. Still, he worked relentlessly to educate himself, going on to Balliol College in Oxford and earning his B.A. in English. Huxley wrote his first (unpublished) novel at age 17, which began an ongoing interest in writing. He started to write poetry, and quickly became one of the most famous and important writers of his time. Within a few years, Huxley had written many novels, including:
Point Counter Point
Do What You Will
Brave New World
(1932). In 1937, the author moved to California with his wife, Maria, and his son, Matthew, in order to become a screenwriter. Maria, unfortunately, died in 1955, and in 1956, Huxley was married to the author Laura Archera. In 1960, Aldous Huxley was diagnosed with cancer, and ended up dying on November 22, 1963, after asking his wife for an excess of LSD.
Marxism and Brave New World
Perhaps the biggest and longest allusion in Aldous Huxley's
Brave New World
, is the allusion to Marxism. The main points of The Marxist Theory are all seen, if not lightly touched upon, in the novel. The most obvious point being the condemnation of social classes.
Although Marxism explicitly states that social classes are the cause of internal conflict in a society, Huxley writes his futuristic society as relying heavily on them. The social castes in Brave New World (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon), all serve a purpose in society and all remain in their own caste as they are taught that their class is better than any other.
Another point in the Marxist Theory is the "Polarisation of the Classes," a study that states that class structure results in only two classes on opposite ends of the spectrum: Proletariat and Bourgeoisie. It states that the key part of the Proletariat control is alienation in all aspects of society, which causes the Bourgeoisie to remain working in their own conditions without question. This display of non-thinking workers is shown through the Epsilon caste, the alienation of which is done by alcohol poisoning in their fetuses in order to keep them compliant.
An additional concept of Marxism that is brought up in the novel, is the idea that society is more important than the individual. The World State's Motto is, after all, "Community, Identity, Stability." This society mimics Karl Marx's ideas in that they both value their communities far more than their own individuality.
Brave New World
was written in 1932, during the beginning stages of the Great Depression, in a time of no economic security. It was also right after the Industrial Revolution, meaning most of the workforce consisted of low-paying factory jobs. In addition, the distribution of wealth was skewed toward those at the top of the economic "food chain." It is no doubt that viewing these social injustices caused Huxley to write about the dystopian system wherein none were allowed to leave their assigned social class.
The time period in which the novel was written is also seen through the repeated subject of hypnopaedia.
, or sleep teaching, was highly popular during the 1920's and 1930's. In fact, the general study of the subconscious mind, or psychoanalysis, was also popular. The works of Sigmund Freud and his many theories and ideas are present in Huxley's works. Huxley took these technological and psychological advances and applied them in the novel to demonstrate how they can be used for mass control.
The industrial, technological, and psychological advances during the 1920's and 1930's clearly influenced the dystopian society presented in
Brave New World.
The Marxist Theory
Marxism was founded by the person for whom it was named: Karl Marx. The Marxist Theory consists of several different points and beliefs, the main point being that social classes create conflict. Marx believed that economic conflict would result in social castes, which in turn result in turmoil. In addition, Marxism states that capitalism relies on the exploitation of the working class. The Marxist Theory also relies on alienation in every aspect of society in order to maintain a stable middle class. Marxism is said to be not only a economic theory, but a political one as well.
The Overall Purpose...
One can safely assume that Aldous Huxley had the ideals of Marxism in mind upon writing
Brave New World
. The novel's use of social castes and hypnopaedia in order to keep their working class from leaving is reminiscent of what Karl Marx said would happen were there to be a similar economic system. Huxley no doubt wanted to bring to light the struggles of the working class in the real world, the many workers who did less-than-glamorous jobs in order to make a living. The workers from whom the higher class benefit.
From the Novel...
"And that ... is the secret of happiness and virtue—liking what you've got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny,"
-The Director (Huxley 16)
"When the individual feels, the community reels,"
-Lenina Crowne (Huxley 94)
"Murder kills only the individual-and, after all, what is an individual?... We can make a new one with the greatest ease-as many as we like. Unorthodoxy threatens more than the life of a mere individual; it strikes at Society itself,"
-The Director (Huxley 148)
"Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I'm so glad I'm a Beta."
-Unknown Voice (Huxley 27)
Marxism contains the idea that one exists to serve their community. It goes on to say that each individual has their own job in a community, and it is their duty to fulfill that specific job. This quote highlights the World State's view of people and their jobs. Viewing one's future as "inescapable" suggests that they have no choice but to do it, and therefore removes all individuality (Huxley 16). The use of "conditioning" to do this also strips away any human thoughts or emotions, causing them to "like" and be happy about their "social destiny," (Huxley 16).
Lenina says "when the individual feels, the community reels," in response to Bernard Marx stating that he "want[s] to feel something strongly," (Huxley 94). Essentially, what she means is that when one person feels genuine emotion, the rest of the community falters. Again we see this placement of importance upon the community as opposed to oneself, as seen in the ideas of Marxism.
Once more, the importance of society is placed before anything else. However, this time, it is far more extreme, suggesting that not only is one's individuality unimportant, but the entire "life of a[n]...individual" is worthless when compared to "Society itself," (Huxley 148). It is at this point that the World State deviates slightly from Karl Marx's theory, as nothing in Marx's works comes close to a suggestion this extreme. Yet one cannot deny that Marxism would be the starting point for this statement.
The conditioning of the citizens is an important topic in the novel, and is one that is heavily discussed. The use of hypnopaedia to brainwash residents of the World State from an early age is essential in keeping each of them happy in their own caste, for example, getting one to believe that "[they're] awfully glad [they're] a Beta," (Huxley 27). Furthermore, by planting the ideas in each individual's subconscious that the other classes are not as good as their own (believing them to "work [too] hard" or be "too stupid,"), the World State Government prevents the individual from wanting to leave their assigned class (Huxley 27). This firm integration of brainwashing to create conformity contradicts the point of the Marxist Theory that states that social castes will lead to internal conflict.
Brave New World contains many quotes that pertain and allude to different theories and ideals. The ideals are most seen through the novel's dialogue. These quotes all deal with Marxism in particular.
"Till at last the child's mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child's mind. And not the child's mind only. The adult's mind too-all his life long. The mind that judges and desire and decides-made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions... Suggestions from the State."
-The Director (Huxley 29)
It seems strange that a quote this significant would be put in at a very early time in the novel. Despite the fact that this quote is said in the beginning, it manages to hold all of the beliefs of this dystopian society in just a few sentences. The first thing one sees is this quote is the obvious brainwashing and conditioning done to the individual's mind "all his life long," (Huxley 29). Aside from that is the reasoning behind the conditioning. The Director says that these are "Suggestions from the State," (Huxley 29) meaning that the ones higher in power, or the Proletariats, are the ones in control. All of the rest are the Bourgeoisie. This mirrors Karl Marx's theory, that all of the social classes will end up into simply two (Proletariats and Bougeoisie) with one holding all of the power.
Marxism in Apple Advertisements?
Although the advertisement below is a short one, it wastes no time in revealing its embedded Marxist ideals. The focal point of the ad is the First Generation iPod Nano (the commercial was released in 2005). The innovative design and pretty exterior immediately catch the viewer's eye. This envy is personified through a second hand that tries to take the iPod from the first, but to no avail. In the Marxist Theory, the first hand would represent the Proletariat: the class that has everything and is "running the show" so to speak. The second hand represents the Bourgeoisie: the class that struggles to attain what the first class has. In terms of the novel, the first hand would be the higher castes (the Alphas and the Betas), whereas the second would be the lower ones (the Deltas or the Epsilons). Although the second "hand" works tirelessly, the first "hand" was already given the product without having to "lift a finger."
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The Marxist Theory is prevalent throughout Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Despite the fact that there are many other theories and allusions, it can be argued that Marxism is the one embedded from the novel's beginning up until it's last words.