Freedom and Individuality in Brave New World
Stories are popular when they enable audiences to escape from reality for a bit. Fiction is unique because it can tell a story while also making appoint. In Aldous Huxley's novel, Brave New World, we have an entertaining story as well as social commentary. The novel's significance lies in its ability to explore several complex, social issues stemming from a thoroughly conditioned society. Huxley uses realistic characters, such as the Savage, to caution us of the dangers of a becoming a society that acquiesces control to the government, becoming a victim of advanced technology and counterfeit happiness. In this kind of society, freedom is a myth and citizens are happy only because their minds are numb. This type of society may sound far-fetched but the reality is that it could emerge in the very society we live in today through a powerful government infiltrating all aspects of life slowly and under the guise of helping the people. The government makes freedom and its ally, individuality, appear wrong and encourage citizens to avoid thinking of them. Concepts like God and subjects of religion and poetry are rarely ever discussed so the people think they foreign and unimportant. These issues are real because the totalitarian government wants to remove all of the things that make humans human. Huxley's social criticisms become alarmingly uncomfortable as we witness the growth of our own government.
Individuality is one thing under attack in Brave New World. The most amazing thing is that the government has the people thinking they must trade something like individuality for protection and happiness. One way to do is by creating a caste system that separates people. Peopple begin to think differently about themselves and others when they feel different from them. In Brave New World, Alphas and Betas divide the society. Fitting in is extremely important because it gives individuals a sense of belonging. When people feel as though they fit in and are a part of some group, they are less likely to make trouble for themselves or the group. This system works well until someone decides they do not want to fit in. One individual that does not fit into this caste system is the Savage, who becomes an example of a character whose inner yearning to be free is alive and well. Bernard is another character who possesses the same longings. These men have a gut instinct that something is not right within their society and they speak out about it as much as they can. Their stories might have tragic conclusion but their messages ring strong and true.
The Savage becomes a major point of interest in Brave New World because of how he chooses to deal with the hand life deals to him. He symbolizes the characteristics of every free man and he represents humanity at its core. He is well-educated, he knows Shakespeare and he can communicate his thoughts and emotions coherently. Knowing Shakespeare gives the Savage an advantage that the others do not have because his worldview is broader than average. All of these things make him seem weird but also interesting at the same time. Shakespeare allows him to see things from a point-of-view that most would not consider. He understands suffering and chaos because he is able to see it from hamlet's point-of-view. He knows what society can be taught to tolerate when it constantly bombarded with the same things. He sees how people put up with difficult situations rather than attempt to get rid of them or find an alternative. He knows that success is difficult but it is worth the time it takes to reach. From Hamlet he knows life can be tough but that is no reason to give up. He tells the Controller, "Whether 'tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them . . . But you don't do either" (Huxley 183). In this scene, we see how the Savage understands there is more to life than a string of simple days with no struggles. Life has its proverbial ups and downs and while the downs can be unsettling, it is the constant variety that keeps life moving and becoming stale. The Savage says the world needs "something with tears for a change" (183). Here he realizes that people do not feel enough robots sometimes that only want to feel good. In addition, he realizes, "Nothing costs enough here" (183). Here we see how the Savage realizes the benefit of suffering. While pain is always tough, it makes us appreciate the good times even more. The Savage is clever and can hold his own when debating his points with others. Jhan Hochman believes the Savage's reservation is a place of "disease, superstition, guilt, racial prejudice, possessiveness, death, and individuality. The clash of these two contrasting world views (reason vs. passion; progress vs. history) exposes the limits of each: empty happiness vs. painful freedom" (Hochman). The Savage is the direct opposite of what the State wants for its people. He is reasonable in a society that has lost most reasons for doing almost anything -- especially anything the enhances the human experience. This makes him a threat because he knows too much and he is not afraid to voice his opinion and let the proverbial chips fall where they may. Gina Macdonald claims his reservation is one of "disease, superstition, guilt, racial prejudice, possessiveness, death, and individuality" (Macdonald). This is true and this is exactly what the Savage wants in his world. He understands the importance of the conflicting things and their place in creating a universe that is balanced. The savage is an argument against totalitarianism because of his genuine, unexpected, irrational behavior. A conditioned society might sound nice in the beginning but a society that reacts and responds to everything like a bunch of robts is about as conterfeit as ever. Nothing is real or worthwhile. With the Savage, one knows one is getting the "real deal" but this cannot be said of anyone else. Gina Macdonald writes, "Although the Savage's criticism is accurate, what he offers in place of progress is equally unacceptable: a choice 'between insanity on the one hand and lunacy on the other,' between technological civilization and past primitivism" (Macdonald). Macdonald has a point to a certain degree. She misses the overall point that society's collective destiny is something it decides upon. It is not handed to them from some totalitarian government. The Savage knew and understood this despite its impossibility. He also demonstrates what totalitarianism does to mankind. He is the opposite of everyone else because he knows more. He has been outside and his experience includes something else that makes him unique. From this stems wisdom that other characters do not possess.
Another character in Brave New World worthy of mention when discussing individualism is Bernard. Bernard is not as driven as the Savage but he has moments of clarity that bring him close to the precipice of a breakthrough. He senses there is more out there but he is not sure what it is or how to find it. He asks Lenina, "Don't you wish you were free?" (Huxley 91), which is a question not for the weak-willed. To ask the question means that he grasps the concept of freedom and what it means to everyone. He tries to explain to Lenina the various emotions he experiences when contemplating certain things. He tells her he wants to gaze out at the "sea in peace" (Huxley 89). He admits he wants to be independent, "not so completely a part of something else. Not just a cell in the social body" (90). He also tells her he wants to "know what passion is . . . I want to feel something strongly" (94). These are serious thoughts and feelings and Lenina can only react by telling him when the "individual feels, the community reels" (94). Her response is the one the government wants everyone to have. When people react this coolly to such powerful news, the government has already won because they human mind has been trained to think the government is right. Bernard, however, is not buying what the government is selling. His suspician that there is something better is evidence of his humanity. Keith May writes, "The chief illusion which Brave New World shatters has less to do with an unthinking faith in scientific progress than with the assumption that truth, beauty, and happiness are reconcilable goods on the plane of ordinary, unregenerate human activity'" (May qtd. In Hochman). The only way to handle notions of truth and beauty is to eradicate them. However, this is most difficult to do. George Woodcock believes it takes something alien to awaken Bernard. When he and Lenina met the Savage on the reservation, they discover a man that is "not only a…
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