1984 vs. Brave New World: Comparison

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  • 0:05 Dystopias
  • 1:39 Control Through Pleasure
  • 2:31 Control Through Fear
  • 3:04 Dealing With Dissidents
  • 3:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and extensive experience working in the business world as Director of Marketing and Business Development at a financial advice firm.

This lesson compares two classic examples of dystopian novels: Aldous Huxley's ''Brave New World'' and George Orwell's ''1984'' and shows how in each novel, the population is controlled by the government, be it by unfettered pleasure or by censorship and fear.


Written less than two decades apart, Brave New World and 1984 present very different views about what a runaway technocratic future would look like. They both reflect their author's vision of what a dystopia might look like. A dystopia can be thought of as a society that is designed as a utopia, but functions as the opposite (i.e. something far more terrifying).

In both of these novels, many of the social designs we hold most dear are abolished. The concept of family as we know it is largely greeted with abhorrence. Instead, social institutions revolve largely around the state. Additionally, societies have perhaps become too dependent on what advanced technology has to offer. In any event, a central theme in both works is the importance of control.

In both books, a key method of control is caste. However, there's a catch. There are five major castes in Brave New World, with people conditioned from birth to feel that they can be happy only in their own castes. A Beta, the second-highest caste, may feel that Alphas have to think too hard to have fun, while Gammas have to work too hard. Meanwhile, caste in 1984 is dependent on one's position in the Party. The uninformed masses outside the Party, the Proles, are free to live lives that are little better than those of drones. Meanwhile, Outer Party members are constantly pitted against what the reader would consider to be normal behavior in hopes of gaining access to the luxurious life of the Inner Party. Of course, that opportunity at life in the Inner Party never happens.

Control Through Pleasure

Brave New World may be a sex addict's dream. That's a pretty strong statement, but there is an overwhelming emphasis on sources of pleasure that are largely considered taboo in today's society. See someone you think is attractive? Forget our society's rules about modesty and consent, you can sleep with whomever you want. In fact, you'd be considered weird to not want to sleep with just about everyone. While we as a society try to keep sex behind closed doors, Brave New World uses consequence-free coitus to control the masses.

But what if you're just having a bad day? The answer is simple: pop a soma, which is basically Brave New World's version of party drugs. Having a really bad one? Take two. While we still debate heavily the merits of recreational drugs, Brave New World readily accepts their place as a control mechanism. After all, a soma a day keeps the revolt away.

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