In the latter half of the 20th century, two visionary books cast their shadows over our futures. One was George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, with its horrific vision of a brutal, mind-controlling totalitarian state - a book that gave us Big Brother and thoughtcrime and newspeak and the memory hole and the torture palace called the Ministry of Love and the discouraging spectacle of a boot grinding into the human face forever. The other was Aldous Huxley's Brave New World , which proposed a different and softer form of totalitarianism - one of conformity achieved through engineered, bottle-grown babies and hypnotic persuasion rather than through brutality, of boundless consumption that keeps the wheels of production turning and of officially enforced promiscuity that does away with sexual frustration, of a pre-ordained caste system ranging from a highly intelligent managerial class to a subgroup of dim-witted serfs programmed to love their menial work, and of soma, a drug that confers instant bliss with no side effects. Which template would win, we wondered.
The novel is set in A. World Controllers rule the world and ensure the stability of society through the creation of a five-tiered caste system. Alphas and Betas are at the top of the system and act as the scientists, politicians, and other top minds, while Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons are at the bottom and represent the world's industrial working class. A drug called soma ensures that no one ever feels pain or remains unhappy, and members of every caste receive rations of the drug. Pre- and post-natal conditioning further ensures social stability. Brave New World opens with the Director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre giving a group of young students a tour of the facilities.
In , Aldous Huxley published a collection of essays on the same social, political, and economic themes he had explored earlier in his novel Brave New World. Although the form differs — the work is nonfiction instead of fiction — Huxley's characteristic intelligence and wit enlivens the essays of Brave New World Revisited just as it did in his novel. Brave New World has been called a "novel of ideas," because Huxley takes as his primary focus for the fiction the contrast and clash of different assumptions and theories rather than merely the conflict of personalities. In Brave New World Revisited , Huxley dispenses with the fictional construct altogether and lets the ideas themselves form and inform his work. In a sense, then, Huxley opened his debate about the future in fiction — for artistic purposes — and then continued it in philosophy with persuasion in mind.
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