Monday, May 17, 2010

Brave New World, last thoughts

I was apparently further into Brave New World than I had assumed and I finished it on my commute home. Thank you Boston for having such a slow subway system, I have almost 2 hours to just read while I try to pretend I'm not on the T.

Back to the book. As I briefly mentioned before, I have a very elaborate system involving me putting tiny pieces of ripped Post-Its on pages I wanted to talk about. This worked well in school when I was marking the pages and writing in one sitting. Now I've been marking it as I read, like all my teachers have always said to do, and now when I go back through my marked pages and I have no idea what I wanted to talk about. So here's some rambling...

I didn't like any of the main characters. Lenina was probably the most sympathetic. She wanted to break free of the life civilization had set before her, but she couldn't. She needed something or someone to push her her out of the fog and it looked like John would be the person to do that for her. But John's so utterly disgusted by civilization that her drives her back into the civilization she almost broke free from. We don't hear from Lenina again until she briefly shows up in the last few pages. But again John chases her away with cries of "Strumpet" and "Fitchew" (257)and Lenina runs back into the arms of Henry and the civilized London.

John is, if I may use a technical literary term, a pain in the ass. His most reasonable point is when he is discussing civilization, happiness, stability and art with Mustapha Mond and Helmholtz. Chapters 16 and 17 are my favorite of the entire book. Mond gives compelling reasons why civilization is how it is and how stability and happiness outweigh drama, art and science. "You can't make tragedies without social instability," Mond explains but "that's the price [you] pay for stability. You've got to choose between happiness and...high art." (220) While I may not believe the civilization they've created is the way we should be moving, I can at least see why they would make the choices they did. And it's only during this time, while discussing art and civilization with Mond that John the Savage is able to articulate his problems with civilization. John whole belief structure is based on trials and hardships and his biggest complaint with civilization is "[it's] too easy." (238) They have removed all of the pain and suffering and emotional cost in existence that life doesn't mean anything anymore.

In the Forward, Huxley mentions if he wrote this book with only 2 options for John the Savage: "insanity on one hand [in the form of civilized London] and lunacy on the other [in the form of the primitive reservation]." (vii) I think the book is wanting for a middle ground, one that is hinted at in the island that Bernard and Helmholtz are sent to, but John is never given this option. Mond won't let him go to the islands and he has to remain in London to continue the experiment, ultimately to his death.

I began my rambling to talk about how much I disliked the characters and my initial plan was to talk about Bernard and how much he sucks. Yes, I tried to plan my rambling, but as usual my thoughts got away from me. I like the direction I went, and I find I usually like where I end up, but I did use those lil Post-Its to mark a couple parts about how lame Bernard is, so here's one that particularly stuck out to me today:

"Bernard dashed to meet [the police]. He waved his arms; and it was action, he was doing something. He shouted 'Help!' several times, more and more loudly so as to give himself the illusion of helping." (214)

I'm pretty sure I quietly chuckled while reading this, eliciting some odd looks from fellow commuters. I like the image of someone making these grand gestures to make it seem like they are doing something...anything. "[full] of sound and fury,/Signifying nothing" (V.v.30-31) as Shakespeare so poetically put it.

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: HarperPerennial, 1998.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Washington Square Press Published by Pocket Books. The Folger Shakespeare Library, New York. 1992.