Written February 25, 2018
Aldous Huxley, a British author in the early 1900’s, was a man that was mentally ahead of his time. One of his best-known works is Brave New World, written in 1931. In this particular novel, he decided to focus on the effects of drugs in a dystopian world. Despite showing how these drugs can be good in one sense, he also shows the multitude of damaging effects it leaves on the dystopian community in the long run. The book conveys the ongoing battle between what is believed to be good effects and the reality which is bad effects of drugs on society, which can be said about our own society today.
In Brave New World, there is a common societal phrase “And do remember that a gramme is better than a damn” (Huxley, 59). This phrase sets the scene early on about the importance of drugs, called soma, in this dystopian society. People are constantly under the influence of soma in order to be functional members of this society. Soma not only helps keep people happy and functioning but also results in society being utterly oblivious to the fact that they are all enslaved. This quote from the novel shows how content their society is with being oblivious to the reality of their world, which is something very real that could happen to our actual society as we know it.
The best way to describe the inhabitants in the novel is that they “are the contemptibly shallow, spiritually empty products of modernity” (Hickman 2009), which further expresses how bad drugs are really affecting members of society rather than the good they seem to think their soma does. Society is in this state of mind where being oblivious seems like a better solution than facing the ongoing issues with their world and fighting to change things for the better. Even when faced with an opportunity to get clean from soma, the people in this society continue to choose to be ignorant. “’Don’t you wish you were free, Lenina?’ ‘I don’t know what you mean. I am free. Free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays” (Huxley, 91) is one of the many quotes that shows how pathetically ignorant drugs can cause people to be.
This dependency on drugs can be turned on our own current society today. Many people today depend on recreational drugs just to function or feel happiness, which in turn causes them to become ignorant to the world around them and turns them into slaves for their own drug usage. According to Aldous Huxley himself in a 1958 interview, drugs “bypass the rational side of man and appeal to man’s subconscious” which results in people “actually loving their slavery” (Aldous Huxley Interview, 1958). His statement goes on to prove the reality of drugs and other forms of advanced technology taking over to control people in society. His book prophesized all of this and now it is slowly becoming a reality.
You can’t walk into a room anymore without someone having their nose buried in their smart phone. Smart phones themselves are just as addicting as drugs and also results in people becoming blind to their surroundings. The most powerful phrase Aldous says in his interview is that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance” (Aldous Huxley Interview, 1958), where we are losing vigilance each and every passing day today. His ability to perceive the direction our society is going in enabled him to predict this outcome concerning drugs and our loss of individual freedom through his novel. Another supporting statement is that drugs cause “the destruction of normal spatial relationship” (Woods), which is also shown in Brave New World.
In the novel, humans are created in a lab rather than between two people. This quickly became normal in their society through the use of soma and it even became something to be deeply embarrassed about if a female became pregnant. For example, “‘And I was so ashamed. Just think of it: me, a Beta—having a baby: put yourself in my place.’ (The mere suggestion made Lenina shudder.)” (Huxley, 120) shows the common thought process of how society viewed natural procreation. Their soma helped them to accept this new way of thinking and to minimize the emotional pain it should cause.
Overall, drugs may seem to be good for a while but are entirely terrible for us as individuals and as a society. They can create a sense of peace and happiness, but it’s actually being ignorant to the world around us and is therefore inherently awful. For this reason, Aldous Huxley created this novel to foretell the possible future in an overwhelming satirical manner. By allowing us to see the possibility, albeit extreme, of what society could possibly become, it forces the reader to analyze his or her own life and what they can do to stop society from turning in that direction.
Hickman, John. “When Science Fiction Writers Used Fictional Drugs: Rise and Fall of the Twentieth-Century Drug Dystopia.” Utopian Studies: Journal of the Society for Utopian Studies, vol. 20, no. 1, 2009, pp. 1–31. EBSCOhost, proxy.kennesaw.edu/login?, url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=2010398650&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. Harper & Row, 1946.
Aldous Huxley Interview. The Mike Wallace Interview, American Broadcasting Company, 1958, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TQZ-2iMUR0&list=WL&index=93&t=1s.
Woods, Richard D. “Sangre patricia and The Doors of Perception.” Romance Notes, vol. 12, 1971. EBSCOhost, proxy.kennesaw.edu/login?, url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=1971204951&site=ehost-live&scope=site.