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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Brave New World

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley, Michael York The writing in Brave New World is rather ordinary, and as science fiction literature its technology is dated. Nevertheless, Brave New World remains a classic. Why? It is one of the earliest books to ask whether technology can save us; Or rather, is technology good for us. The plot provides a forced choice between insanity or lunacy. A more likely prospect is that civilization will muddle somewhere between these two extremes in the future. Still, posing the question in this way certainly gets discussion started on how we make use of technology.

Brave New World describes a world environment designed to maximize comfort and happiness at the expense of truth and beauty. The memory of history with all its instability is purposely forgotten. Science is carefully controlled to prevent change that might threaten stability. In the end everybody is happy and stability is assured. The exceptions to this happiness are the few sympathetic characters with whom modern readers can identify. What will be the fate of these few? What will be the fate of the Savage? What will be our fate? Therein lies this story's suspense.

Here are some quotations from the book to ponder:

But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."
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"What’s the point of truth or beauty or knowledge when anthrax bombs are popping all around you?"
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"Words can be like X-rays, if you use them properly--they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced."
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"All right then," said the savage defiantly, I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."

"Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat, the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind."

There was a long silence.

"I claim them all," said the Savage at last."

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"The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. "Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does." They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted."