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Who Is the Author of Brave New World?

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
Brave New World is one of the most recognized and celebrated examples of dystopian literature. Its author, Aldous Huxley, faced controversy over his most well known piece of work. Learn about Huxley's life, writings and influences, and his journey to creating Brave New World.

Who was Aldous Huxley?

Aldous Huxley was one of the most gifted satirists in all of English literature. His most famous work, the 1931 novel Brave New World, is regarded as one of the most powerful works of 20th century English literature. With a life that spanned both world wars, the birth of mass production and psychoanalysis, along with rapidly changing mores on drug use and sexuality, there was no shortage of material for Huxley to be critical of. In this lesson, we'll take a look at his life, his views on religion and technology, and the major themes of his work. We'll conclude by looking at Brave New World Revisited, in which Huxley clearly states his own anxieties about the world to come.

Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley

Early Life

Huxley was born in 1894 in England. There he attended the best that the British educational system had to offer, namely Eton College and then Balliol College, Oxford. Saved from service in World War I by faulty vision, Huxley instead worked as a clerk for the Air Force, and then taught French at Eton. One of his pupils there was George Orwell, who would go on to write his own dystopian criticism of society, 1984.

In the 1920s, Huxley worked at a chemical plant in the north east region of England. His experiences there of what he called 'an ordered universe in a world of planless incoherence' influenced the novel Brave New World. The opening pages of the novel are reminiscent of the assembly lines Huxley witnessed at the factory.

From the 1920s on, Huxley would concentrate on his writing. During World War I he was part of the Bloomsbury Group, a collection of thinkers and writers at the cutting edge of British intellectual life that included Bertrand Russell and Virginia Wolfe. In 1937 he moved to Los Angeles with his wife and began writing screenplays.

Views on Religion and Technology

As a relatively upper class member of society, Huxley was no stranger to the latest discoveries and innovations. However, he remained suspicious of all of them. He saw a decline of humanity in both mass production and Pavlovian conditioning, a method of training animals through stimuli and rewards. Additionally, he saw the increased consumerism of the world on display on his first trips to the United States, another theme that would figure prominently in Brave New World.

Huxley was also a strong pacifist. Ultimately, this would lead him to become a follower of Vendanta, a school of pacifist philosophy rooted in the teachings of Hinduism. His pacifism expressed itself both internally and externally. He became a vegetarian to become more in line with the teachings of Vendanta. He also applied his considerable earnings as a screenwriter to help finance the escape of Jewish friends from Nazi Germany during the 1930s.

Later in life, he applied for U.S. citizenship, only to be denied for his non-religious pacifism. However, he lived out the rest of his life in the United States, dying of cancer on November 22, 1963, the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Writing

By far the most renowned of Huxley's work is Brave New World, the satirical story of what happens when humanity forgets its morals and instead is lost in a sea of drugs, sex, and a search for constant but fleeting happiness.

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