A Prerogative To Creative Minds In Brave New World

Aldous Husxley’s Brave New World revolves around the equation “civilization = sterilization”. The “sterilized’ mind would interpret this as meaning that cleanliness, or a lack of filth, is the mark of a civilized group. This is precisely what Lenina says in Brave New World after she observes the filthy Indian Reservation. Huxley was attempting to say something more than simply cleanliness. He wanted to show that a society controlled by an elite whose only concern is their stability. Huxley said that “civilization” is the sterilization of intellectual activity, which is the stifling of individuality. This was done for stability.

Huxley describes, in Brave New World’s utopia/dystopia, a society where people are taught to think according to the wishes of the World State. In Brave New World, Huxley describes a society in which people are conditioned to think the way that the supreme power, World State, wants them to. The effectiveness is obvious: By creating hatred for books or other objects/concepts within the mind of the people, it is impossible to question what is being done because “what man joined, nature can not separate” (22). Lenina repeats subliminally-learned phrases. One example is the promotion of the drug “soma”, used to achieve ecstasy. Jingles include “a gramme will always be better than a darn” and “one cubic inch can cure 10 gloomy emotions” (89-90). The majority of people will take soma when prescribed by their doctor, believing they’re doing them good. But in reality, it restricts their ability to think beyond “everyone’s a part of everyone else” or any other thought that doesn’t require real thinking (40). The World State “sterilizes” these people from knowledge in order to maintain stability. Change is feared by the World State because it can cause instability. Now the world is stable. People are happy. “They get what you want, but they don’t ever want something they can’t have” (220). Lenina can’t tolerate the filth and wrinkles on the Indian reservations because of her conditioning. “Cleanliness is next-to-fordliness”. She cannot mentally process an experience like this and is left wondering why Indians were so wrinkled. Lenina’s conditioning is very powerful. It doesn’t allow her to think intellectually, and it is constantly renewed by soma.

Huxley, in Brave New World, shows how the system that divides people by caste is not working. Gammas Deltas Epsilons and other lower castes have to be trained for low-grade labor, like elevator operators. The upper caste, Alphas and Betas, are assigned more complicated tasks, like lecturing at college or vaccinating in the conditioning center. Lower castes have been conditioned to accept the work without complaining and do it on a regular basis. For stability, the World State says, “An Alpha conditioned and decanted man would go insane if forced to perform Epsilon Semi Moron tasks… Only Epsilons can be expected, for good reason, to make Epsilons sacrifices. They’re not sacrifices. It’s the path of least resistance for them” (222). Liftmen of lower castes are awed when they see sunlight on roof floors. They exclaim “oh the roof!”. This is because most of their time is spent in darkness. The liftman’s awe is a reflection of his desire to see something beyond his daily routine, but his inability to understand and take action prevents him. Epsilons in the lower castes have also been bred semi-morons for being “too idiotic to be able” to read and write. This reflects another aspect of World State’s inhibiting intellectual activity via sterilization.

Helmholtz Watson is a lecturer from the College of Emotional Engineering who has been shattered of his opportunities by Brave New World. Watson feels the need to express himself verbally. He describes this urge as follows: “Did it ever seem like there was something waiting inside of you, just waiting for you? There’s a power in you that you’re not using …”. He is aware of his power, but doesn’t want to use it to create catchphrases to promote World State products. Smell organs. In an attempt to get his students to feel the same as he had when he composed the lyrics, he creates a series of rhymes that are aimed at evoking solitude. This gets him into trouble because he is going against their conditioning. Helmholtz may have the mental resources and capacity to make the changes he desires in his life. However, he does not possess the inner emotions or ideas that would drive a writer to create a specific topic. It is important to remember this quote. Helmholtz shows how a thin layer is applied to the rock, preventing him from reaching his goal. The hardships that he will experience in the Falkland islands will trigger his emotions and allow him to write freely. The central message is to destroy human potential, and in doing so, degraded minds that are not equipped with the tools needed to create great works of art.

Huxley has a similar interpretation in his novel of how civilization can have a sterilizing effect. Huxley is also a mirror of our own world. Retailers are doing a great marketing job to reach the modern consumer who will buy just about anything. They are replacing their vehicles every few years as they become “bored”. Or, they fall prey to Apple’s “new” models of iPods that look almost identical to the previous ones. People are more likely to engage in this behavior as a result of the cultural pressures that exist today. Some people refuse to even go outdoors unless it’s for a sport like skiing. The World State’s philosophy is that nature should not be valued unless it pays. It is not necessary to be born a moron to hinder intellectual development, but rather to have a mental influence. This is something that has become more commonplace in modern society.

Huxley was not wrong when he said “civilization sterilization” because civilizations can have a strong influence on people to the extent that they can deny them their intellectual liberty. In Brave New World’s World State, the World State uses a strategy of conditioning its citizens for stability. Although exaggerated, it is illuminating and insightful. It is a form of extreme control which is not violent. But its control has a cost. Because the conditioning prevents individuals from truly thinking for themselves, it stifles potential, and predetermines their roles before they’re born. Even if Alphas are intelligent, they are still unable to achieve their goals because the World State prohibits them from pursuing them. The people in the book are similar to W.H. Auden’s Unknown Citizen. The world state’s citizens are “unknown” and not identifiable, just like the Unknown Citizen in W.H. Auden’s The Unknown Citizen. We can now see that Huxley had some accurate predictions about the future. This is especially true for the statement “civilization means sterilization”, as the modern society resembles Huxley’s novel, though perhaps not to the same extent. Huxley may have been right about some things, but the fear is that more will come to pass.


  • stanleybyrne

    Stanley Byrne is a 26-year-old education blogger and teacher. He has degrees in education and political science from the University of Notre Dame and has worked in various teaching and research positions since he graduated in 2014. He is the author of a number of educational blog posts and has written for Huffington Post, The Guardian, and Salon.