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Satire in Brave New World

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  • 0:01 Setting of Brave New World
  • 0:43 Soma, Sex, and Society
  • 2:17 John as a Satirical Vehicle
  • 3:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and experience teaching.

This article explores the usage of satire as a vehicle for social commentary in Aldous Huxley's novel, Brave New World, where a futuristic society changes the landscape of the social order. Read the article and take the quiz!

Setting of Brave New World

Unlike the dark, dreary world of 1984, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is set against a world of progress and happiness. This was definitely the intention of Aldous Huxley in his attempt to give the idea of utopia an ironic twist. Otherwise forbidden chemical and physical pleasures are always available, and nurtured from a young age. In this world of extreme automation, there is no war and no social struggle. There are just five classes of people, from Alphas to Epsilons, who are psychologically conditioned from birth to love their lives and their community. However, with the introduction of John Savage, an outsider from a New Mexico reservation, the lack of real happiness in the culture is exposed.

Soma, Sex, and Society

Throughout the work, satire is used to attack the idea of progress taken too far without regard for the consequences. The basis of the whole society has changed dramatically, and it is ironic that a culture that assumes it has solved all of society's ills is really just ignoring them. Have a bad day at work? Pop a soma, a drug with all the benefits of alcohol, cocaine, and, to some extent, LSD, but with none of the nasty side effects. In short, the answer to not having solved the complexities of life that come with mass consumerism is simply to consume more, fueling the fire of the same society that torments.

However, at least one aspect of the old ways has endured. Sex figures prominently throughout the book. From a young age, residents of this new society are taught to both find pleasure in their bodies and to share their bodies for the pleasure of others. You may be asking how families would condone this. Simply put, families don't exist. In fact, 'mother' is now the most derogatory word in the English language. Lenina, the primary female protagonist of the work, is described as 'pneumatic,' a double-entendre to both her extreme vapid nature and her sexual prowess. In a change in gender roles, it is she who sees John Savage as an object of sexual desire. However, we see that despite this sexual free-for-all, it is through sex that many of the fissures of the book erupt. The character of Bernard is deemed as a subpar partner, and it's clear no amount of soma will erase that feeling. John himself feels cheapened after Lenina uses him.

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