I found this book while helping clean out the costume room for drama in high school. I have always intended to read it, but decided to finally read it over break when I had a free day. It is only 177 pages long, so I figured I could read it in one day. Also, the picture I have is not the cover of my book… mine is actually just typography of the title and author’s name that is really yellow and bent. I liked the used feeling of it, and it was fun to read a book that I randomly found. I also found The Once and Future King by T.H. White. I will hopefully get to that this summer or early next school year.
Besides ‘dystopian sci-fi-future,’ the only thing I knew about this book beforehand was that it detailed a culture where people were entertained a lot. I’ll get to that later. First, I liked how the book started off. It described how babies are decanted (“born” in test tubes) and how each set of babies are treated differently. There are Alphas, Betas, Deltas, Gammas, and Epsilons (I think that’s all of them). Each different type are given a certain treatment based on their predestined caste. For instance, Alphas are treated to the best, while some Epsilons are exposed to sleeping sicknesses and extreme heat to condition them to be able to work in tropical climates. This was really interesting, and set off the story well.
Next, we learn of how the children are hypnopaedically (spoken to while sleeping) conditioned to be consumerists with phrases like “ending is better than mending” and ”the more stitches the less riches” which leads them to buy new clothes often. Sports are also planned out to be ridiculously intricate, and any sport that doesn’t require a ton of apparatuses is not allowed, because then people wouldn’t have to buy stuff to play. The most important aspect of this society, in my opinion, is the fact that they are always entertained. Being alone or unoccupied is seen as anti-social and extremely negative.
When people aren’t engaging in weirdly intricate games, at parties, or sleeping with whomever they want (monogamy? gross!), they can take grammes of soma. Huxley likens soma to alcohol/drugs without the aftereffect. They have many sayings that are to the effect of, “why care when you can be high?” Ex: “a gramme is better than a damn.” Soma basically lets you go on holiday in your mind. Okay… though I love the societal aspects of this story, I suppose I should let you explore some of that on your own.
The bulk of the story deals with a man, Bernard, who was born as a physically stunted Alpha, which means he is intellectually above his physical level so he stands out in society. His relationship with Lenina Crowne, a worker in the decanting factory, is explored. They go on a trip to the Savage Reservation in the USA and meet John, who is a savage (Indian). The actual story deals with their relationships, and how each of them either follow or veer from social norms.
I really enjoyed the social aspects of this book. The story is interesting, but I was much more fascinated with the construction of the world and conditioning of people in order to make them ‘happy.’ Huxley chose his points of view well — we get to see things through three(+) extremely different points that highlight the oddity of social norms. This is a relatively short novel and a quick read. If you like sci-fi or are interested in social conditioning, I would absolutely recommend this book to you.