Dystopic fiction is not my favourite genre but I read this classic novel so that I could discuss it with my son who was reading it for grade 11 English. It was a challenge to finish and I can only imagine how difficult it would be for a class of students to listen to the story as it was read aloud, chapter by chapter.
Huxley first published the novel in 1956. It tells the tale of a society trying to remain “happy” and stable by “conditioning” their members. It begins with the fertilization of eggs with sperm in a laboratory setting where clone-like babies were “decanted” from jars (those of you who know me know that I cringe when that word is used in relation to people. It is frequently used when describing discharging and group of residents from long-term care homes yet decanting is a word that should be reserved for wine or inanimate objects). As the children grew they were “programmed” with repetitive thoughts instilled in their consciousness while they slept. The children were encouraged to participate in erotic play and society was kept even by open sexuality with no monogamous attachments. Individuals were encouraged to partake in the use of soma, a drug that kept people calm and happy.
I cannot say that I enjoyed this book but it does make one consider what could happen after a prolonged war (the novel described a 9 year war) with controllers dictating happiness. Considering all the great classic novels, Brave New World is not one that I would choose to engage students in great literature. I am glad that I read it but have to admit, I am also very glad that it is finished.
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