Literary Criticism Brave New World
- Brave New World , Novel , Pain , Torture
How it works
The novels Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell focus on what it’s like to live in a dystopian society. The social critic, Neil Postman, refers to both of the novels in his literary criticism. He states that Brave New World is more relevant to today’s society, because Huxley’s novel poses as a society that passes on such a vast amount of information that one becomes passive and self-absorbed; whereas, Orwell creates a society that is deprived of information. He also states that Brave New World revolves around a trivial culture, meaning that people only seem to be concerned with frivolous, irrelevant things. However, Orwell’s society models a captive, rather than a trivial culture. One of the final points Postman mentions is that Huxley’s society is centered around the idea that one will only obey through the infliction of pleasure rather than the infliction of pain, which is how Orwell’s society is stimulated. I agree with Postman’s claims, because his claims all accurately compare to today’s society.
Postman says that the society presented in Brave New World has imparted such a broad amount of information that one becomes passive and self-absorbed, whereas the society of 1984 is deprived of information. This is evident when Winston proclaims, “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered” (Orwell 128). Winston says this to Julia in a conversation attempting to persuade her that the society they live in is greatly flawed. Their form of government believes that concealing facts of history and altering information is the best way for a society to develop.
How it works
Their government chooses what they want their people to believe and to be informed about. Later in the novel, after discussing with Julia, Winston takes a moment to sit and ponder about the actions that their society partakes in. He thinks to himself, “The terrible thing that the Party had done was to persuade you that mere impulses, mere feelings, were of no account, while at the same time robbing you of all power over the material world” (136). Winston is reflecting upon the fact that their society robs their people of basic freedoms, and it is as if they are treated like slaves. This proves that in 1984 people are deprived of certain information. In today’s society, we immensely model the society of Brave New World. We are passed on so much information that we become passive and self-absorbed; in today’s age, people appear to be more gullible and selfish. It seems as if people in our society nowadays are brought up in a way that receives copious handouts from all directions, which causes people to feel entitled to, therefore increasing their desire to act selfishly. People also look to others for guidance rather than taking initiative on their own, proving themselves to be gullible to others.
Postman also claims that Huxley’s society in Brave New World revolves around a trivial culture rather than a captive culture, which is what’s seen in Orwell’s society. This means that in Brave New World, people are concerned with superfluous things that are not important; whereas in 1984 people are brought up like captivated animals or slaves. O’brien elucidates the idea of this when he sternly states to Winston, “Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves” (211). O’Brien also states this to Winston while he is being tortured. O’brien is delineating to Winston the control that he/the government has over him, along with everyone else. Their government has the power to completely alter one’s self emotionally and physically and to possess the power to control one’s self, as if the government is the puppeteer and the people are the puppet. Winston writes in his diary, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four.
If that is granted, all else follows” (69). Their government wants their people to do/think only of what is approved; every other action and thought is prohibited. Today’s society models Brave New World’s culture to a greater extent, because our society replicates more of a trivial culture, meaning one is more concerned with irrelevant things. People nowadays are more concerned with their cell phones, social media, and other technological advances that one does not need. Today these materialistic items are looked at as being of greater significance to society than education, employment opportunities, personal obligations, etc.
One of the last points that Postman makes is that the society in Brave New World is controlled by the infliction of pleasure; whereas in 1984’s society, it is controlled by the infliction of pain. In the course of the Two Minutes Hate, Orwell portrayed the event as being a horrid occurrence. He claims, ‘A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledgehammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic’ (16). Orwell emphasizes how wicked the event of the Two Minutes Hate was. This goes to show how savage Orwell’s society is, demonstrating that their society is brought up by the infliction of pain.
Upon Winston being tortured by O’brien, Orwell describes it as being an extremely unpleasant experience. He goes on to say, ‘There were times when it went on and on until the cruel, wicked, unforgiveable thing seemed to him not that the guards continued to beat him but that he could not force himself into losing consciousness’ (198). Orwell is delineating how cruel the torture Winston is receiving; so cruel in which he would have preferred losing consciousness over continuing to receive torture. O’brien is inflicting torture upon Winston; hoping to possess the power of control over him. O’brien is trying to gain control through the infliction of pain. Again, proving how barbaric the society in 1984 is, and how they believe in receiving power from inflicting pain on others. Brave New World more accurately compares to today’s society, because nowadays people grow up as children being rewarded continuously. People are possessing more gratification in today’s age than ever before. This makes it easy for one to be controlled by pleasure, and that’s exactly what’s happening. Due to the fact that there are handouts and rewards coming from every direction, one tends to seek upon the pleasure of receiving those things.
In conclusion, I agree with Postman’s claim that Huxley’s Brave New World is more relevant in today’s age than Orwell’s 1984. Brave New World more closely models today’s society due to the fact that we receive such a vast amount of information that one becomes passive and self-absorbed. Our society also immensely resembles a trivial culture, rather than a captive one that is presented in 1984. Additionally, in today’s society, one is brought up on the concept of inflicting pleasure, rather than pain. These claims prove that Brave New World is more relevant to today’s society than 1984.