Brave New World 0. The prejudice and anachronism dumping ground


Brave New World was written in the 1930s, and it shows with a lot of prejudices and assumptions in the book. Use this thread to note, discuss, or moan about them, without derailing other discussions.

I'll start.

  • Sexism and misogyny: The world is stated as being gender-equal, but the only Alphas we see working are all men. Lenina may be an Alpha, but she's portrayed as being a shallow, hedonistic, infantile person.
  • Racism: Similarly, ethnicity is mentioned a few times, but the only non-whites we see are outsiders or lower caste people. I don't recall any mention of ethnicity of Alphas, implying we should think of them all as white.
  • Technology: there are punched cards where we would use computers. There are Epsilon sub-morons where we would use automation (for instance, the lift attendant).
  • Ecology: The world is based around consumerism, and profligate consumerism at that. Could the global ecology support the high levels of population and consumption we see?

What else is there?


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    I think there's an alpha minus explicitly referred to as non-white. But yes, it's racist. We could recast that by saying the founders were white and that was seen as desirable along with the other alpha characteristics. But that's not what was done - it's a blot on the book, not deliberate racism, but standard racial prejudice from the 1930s that went unquestioned.

    On the racism subject, I fail to see why the Reservation had to be Native American.

    Ditto sexism. We're told the genders are equal, and to be fair most men are just as infantalised as the women. But all the exceptions to that infantalisation are men.

    In terms of ecology, I get the impression that the world population is deliberately kept small. Technology was surprisingly unjarring.

    One thing to add - I'd have thought in the universal sexual activity, homosexuality should also have featured. I wonder if that would have been more shocking in the 1930s that the childhood sexuality.
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    I think Huxley was probably reflecting the UK he knew - if he were writing today he would, I suspect, include a lot more overt diversity. As it is, he has the Controller called Mustapha, which must surely not have been a common UK name in the 1930s.

    It has something of the same feel as War of the Worlds, in that a potentially global story is viewed through the lens of a small part of Surrey (and to a lesser extent the south-east portion of England) - that small lens suffices to say what Wells or Huxley wanted to say, so why expand?

    I agree with @dr_mitch that much technology has been deliberately suppressed. Mustapha says almost as much when talking about destabilising influences, and in particular how so many possible advances have to be suppressed because of their undesirable, or at least unknown effects.

    Ecology: I have the sense that outside the cities, the rural parts are quite wild and uninhabited. For example, the part of Surrey, between Puttenham and Elstead, that The Savage chooses to live in near the end (a part that I know pretty well, as it is very near where I used to live as a child and teenager) is presented as almost entirely wilderness, crossed overhead by flight paths to be sure, but with few houses.

    All that said, I do agree that Huxley wrote a book which challenged and commented on, but was also constrained by the assumptions and mores of his own time. I don't think we can tell from his novel whether he personally subscribed to such views, or whether he was simply writing in a way that would be accessible to his immediate audience.

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