I thought this book was a bad idea to read during October, because I’m trying to read mostly horror books, but little did I know how horrific this book would be.
I read this book because it’s on pretty much every list of top books to read in your lifetime. In fact, I accidentally put it on my TBR list twice. That’s how often I see it recommended. I even got it from the Goodwill (it was featured in my one of my recent hauls, though I cannot be bothered to remember which) Finally, I read it. And now I see why it’s a classic.
Synopsis: A future world filled with a genetically modified populace, where children are born and raised within science labs and people take pills to remain happy. In this classic novel, Huxley examines themes of society, death, love, happiness, and humanity.
This book is surprisingly similar to 1984 by George Orwell, as both feature a society where freedom is suppressed and humanity is twisted by societal powers and the lies of those in government. However, I rather liked this book better, because it shows very different characters and how each reacts distinctly to their situation. It’s a book less based on plot and more on world development and character progression. Because of this, some people might find it a tedious read, but I loved it.
The book follows three main characters. The first is Bernard, a man who is part of this strange society but who feels aimless and unhappy. He reminded me immensely of Winston from 1984, and even their stories end similarly. The second character is Lenina, a young woman who is promiscuous and one of the rare women left who isn’t sterile. The final character is John, also known as the Savage, who lives on the Reservation, a “primitive” place where couples marry and have children. Bernard and Lenina both travel to the Reservation and meet John who returns back with them to “civilization.”
Most of the story follows their observations of the world around them. Bernard gets into Shakespeare, beginning to see a very different perspective on the world. John is highly moral, and is horrified that Lenina just has sex with whoever she feels like it. This is one idea which is familiar in the modern age, where sex is promoted as simple as eating food.
There is so much I could break down about this book, because it is less about the plot and more about philosophy and society.
Like that fascinating scene where Lenina and Bernard see an old man on the Reservation and are horrified that someone should look old, because where they come from people are made to look young (a bit like the fad of plastic surgery that is seen today). Another scene is where John is by his mother’s bedside as she dies, and mourns her death, but the hospital is doesn’t care as death is so pointless now. In a sense, life as become a commodity for sensual pleasure and societal gains, not for the benefit of humanity.
The ending is actually quite sad. SPOILER ALERT! Bernard is banished to an island after being found to enjoy Shakespeare. John is driven a bit mad by the world and ends up hanging himself. Lenina is the only character who doesn’t have a tragic fate, though being stuck in her lifestyle might be a tragic fate in itself.
This is not a light, fun book. It is serious, and horrifying in many scenes. The way the scientists talk about babies and indoctrinating youth is terrifying. The creepy behavior of the crowds as they treat John like a spectacle to be gawked at. It reminds me more of features of a horror than a dystopian. In that way, this book fit so well for the spookiest month of the year!
Have you read this book? Or do you want to? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,