Brave New World is a classic of the dystopian genre. Though many people think of George Orwell’s 1984 as setting the stage for dystopian literature, Brave New World actually predates it in publication by more than a decade. In this novel, Aldous Huxley paints a picture of a society where everyone is happy, content, and supplied with everything they need. While this at first may seem like a utopia, once the reader scratches the surface and begins to see what exactly has to be given up in order to have a society like that, what we find beneath the scratches is not as shiny as the surface appeared.
Huxley’s novel is edgy, insightful, and unashamedly sexy, especially considering that it was published in the 1930s when mainstream literature had many more taboos than it does today. The author ushers the reader into a maze of sex, drugs, and leisure then contrasts this society by introducing a character that is entirely different from the rest of the world around him. Seeing the same world through different eyes than those through which the rest of the characters see it provides a fresh perspective on what is good and what seems good but is decidedly not.
As the reader follows the narrative of the characters in this novel, we can see many parallels to our own modern-day world. Though many things are different and unfamiliar, there are many ways in which Huxley’s work has turned out to be uncannily, spookily prophetic.
Profanity/Language: 6 religious exclamations; 10 mild obscenities; 11 derogatory names; 1 anatomical term.
Violence/Gore: A character considers punching others; a few verbal threats; character threatens another with a stick; a few reports of biological and chemical weapons used in past war; report of a terror attack; report of an explosion with description of a disembodied foot; report of destruction of works of culture by burning or explosion; characters see the bodies of dead animals a few times; report of people hit with gas bombs as crowd control; report of a character injured in a fall; report of death by disease; a character wounds another with a knife; a man hits a woman; man hits a child a few times; characters are assaulted by a mob and punches are thrown; characters kick one another a few times; a character pushes another down and hits them; young children are treated with electric shock; a fight between women and children involving whips and biting; a mother beats her child; adults throw rocks at a teen to get him to leave; kids throw rocks at each other; character intentionally harms himself by hugging a thorn bush; a character dies in a non-violent manner, but the scene is horrific; a character is found hanged; a character is whipped bloody to unconsciousness in a ritual; a character hits himself with a whip in a religious ceremony a few times.
Sex/Nudity: A character watches a woman sleep, considering how beautiful she is and considers undressing her; man speaks romantically to a woman; character hug and kiss en masse; women are naked together in a community shower (not sexual); it’s noted that a crucifix is naked; a few scientific descriptions of the fertilization process (no description of the sex act itself); homosexuality (mention); autoeroticism (mention); a few instances where characters openly discuss their sex lives and who they have “had”; a woman encourages another woman to be more promiscuous; men discuss having sex with a woman as if she is an object; discussion of whether women should be viewed as “meat”; women frequently take contraception and carry it openly in decorative ways; a woman remembers encounters with various men with their clothes off (no graphic details); women invite a man to a picnic with the implication that sex will be involved; mention of abortion centers; a child is taken out of a room so that adults can have sex; the word “orgy” is used numerous times in a recurring rhyme; real-world literary works are examined through the lens of a promiscuous culture’s interpretation; a woman suggests to another woman than she should have a man sexually whether he wants it or not; character thinks of a woman he saw naked; a man in a supervisory position pats a female employee on the backside; a man puts his arm around a female employee and starts to kiss her but is interrupted; a man is reported to have had hundreds of sexual partners; report of a man having an affair with a woman; woman remembers sex with a man (no details); characters watch movies called “feelies” that have tactile sensations in addition to sound and picture, and some of these are erotic (but none of the sex is graphically described); young school-aged children play erotic games, sometimes while naked (no description of what these games are) a few times; female characters use a machine for erotic massage; characters participate in a ritual orgy with things such as pats on the backside detailed but everything else implied; a man fondles a woman’s breast, and sex is implied to follow; scene in which characters kiss and a woman undresses for a man and tries to seduce him; young teen walks in on adults having sex (no details).
Mature Subject Matter:
Eugenics; racial discrimination; class discrimination; government censorship; forced sterilization; war, biological, and chemical weapons (mentioned as being in the past); abortion; child abuse; characters practice mystic rituals; drug addiction; pornography; death (parent); heavy philosophical discussions related to religion and atheism.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Adult characters take contraceptives; adult characters frequently take a drug that is hallucinogenic and narcotic; adults smoke cigarettes; report of people drinking alcohol; alcohol is used as a medical treatment; female adults take hormone treatment to simulate pregnancy side effects; adults use mescal and peyote.