Writing such a novel way back in 1932, would have required quite a lot of imagination and courage.
A very interesting novel, I should say. It is inspired from the mass production concept of the American car magnate Henry Ford's Model T (1908 - 1927), the first automobile to be manufactured by purely mass production methods such as conveyor belt assembly and specialised labour. Imagine a place where humans are mass produced and are conditioned to follow a particular lifestyle. There is no god there, only 'Ford'. And the world has no place for sadness; everyone is conditioned to be happy and there is no real relationship or bond between men, the logic being that everyone's for everyone else. There is no exclusivity in relationships and obviously, no concept of families and relationships. The term 'mother' is a crude and vulgar and children are hatched and not born. A place where small girls and boys are forced to engage in erotic games and activities. What if such a place actually existed?
To tell you more, we are talking about a place where 'Ford' is the god and where humans are doped to help them get out of their routine life. Half gramme of soma is all that is required for anyone to be happy, something more than that can even send you on a long vacation. The place has various classes of human beings, based on their mental and physical conditioning, like alpha plus, alpha, beta plus and even gamma and epsilon. Even during the growth stage, the blood flow to the brain is controlled in order to segregate humans into these groups. The superior men would be given adequate blood and thereby oxygen supply to their brains, making them intellectually better off than the others. The mental and physical growth of the inferior classes are inhibited through external means. So the lower the class, the shorter the oxygen. Also, all the classes are given hypnopaedic conditioning to etch their statuses in the society permanently in their minds. For instance, right from the time they are babies, they are made to undergo sleep teaching to imprint ideas such as 'I am happy that I am a beta' or 'Everyone is for everyone' and are even given specific treatment as per their area of work. The following line from the book depicts the idea very clearly:
The first of a batch of embryonic rocket-plane engineers was just passing the eleven hundredth metre mark on Rack 3. A special mechanism kept their containers in constant rotation. 'To improve their sense of balance,' Mr. Foster explained. 'Doing repairs on the outside of a rocket in mid air is a ticklish job. We slacken off the circulation when they are right way up, so that they are upside down. They learn to associate topsy-turvydom with well-being and in fact, they are truly happy when they are standing on their heads.
Another technique at the CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, is called bokanovskification, considered to be one of the major instruments of social stability. Essentially, bokanovskification consists of a series of arrests of development. Check the normal growth and the egg responds by budding. The result is that you get scores and scores of identical people. The good news is that there could be situations where an entire factory is staffed by the products of a single bokanovskified egg. 96 seemed to be limit, 72 a good average. So the situation could be like 96 identical twins working 96 identical machines. The world's state motto, 'Community, Identity, Stability' personified in every respect.
It all looks normal and natural to men and women at the centre as their conditioning is meant to do just that. But life wouldn't be the same if you are different from the others due to an unusual one-time flaw in the process. Bernard Marx is an outlier in this so-called perfect world and his mind keeps questioning the dos and don'ts. He even gets to the point where he is about to be sent to Iceland as a preventive measure from letting him negatively affect the normal people around. But a visit to the Savage Reservation changes everything. Savage Reservation is where life still happens the normal way and is considered to be an uncivilized and filthy place where people suffer from diseases, old-age, wrinkles etc. The traditional life still exists here, with due importance to the relationships in life. People marry one another for life here, unlike the other world where the rule says, 'Everyone is for everyone'.
Savage Reservation and its people are in stark contrast with the ones in Marx's world, but Marx feels he has gotten somewhere after meeting John, whom everyone in his world refers to as 'The Savage'. The savage and his mother, a member of Marx's world in her youth who got trapped accidentally years ago in the Savage Reservation while she was on vacation there, is taken to the other world. John finds it difficult to imbibe the lifestyle there and is disgusted and amazed at the same time. He finally decides to stay away from all this and to punish himself for the luxury that he thinks he is being offered.
The story ends on a sad note with John putting an end to his life's miseries thereby punishing himself for what the world did to him. The world was indeed cruel to him and he decided to take it out on his own life.
Aldous Huxley has indeed given a convincing depiction of a world where humans are of no more value than mere machines. They are just considered as instruments meant to fulfill the whims and fancies of the world controller. Everything is controlled, their emotions, their happiness, what they do, how they do it etc. There is no freedom and this is what amazes John when he enters this world in the first place. He valued freedom more than anything else and feels that this world is doing injustice to people by controlling each and every aspect of their life. He tried to convince the World Controller and some of his colleagues that conditioning men and women to keep them happy always is one of the greatest sins you could do to mankind, but in vain. But the World Controller has much greater things in mind for this world and its people, and this model perfectly suits his plans. As per him, in this world 'there is no violence, no fighting and everyone is always happy. And if they are not, then there is always soma to do the trick. What more can people expect from their lives?' The question is whether freedom is more important than stability and happiness or not. Is freedom worth dying for? The author has been successful in striking the right balance between the two sides of the story and has done justice to both. The idea has been conveyed beautifully and that is the reason why this book, even after so many years, is considered to be a masterpiece.
A great read and an interesting one too! Happy reading, everyone.