Brave New World

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Brave New World Book Poster Image
Satire of ultimate consumerist society still packs punch.
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 6 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Brave New World is an extremely influential dystopian science-fiction novel that presents both a richly imagined future and a sharp critique of trends prevalent at the time of its publication that are still relevant today.

Positive Messages

By showing the hollowness of lives devoted to consumerism, promiscuity, and empty pleasure, Huxley tacitly endorses community, literacy, family, service, faithfulness, and reverence.

Positive Role Models & Representations

John, also known as "the Savage," comes as close to a sympathetic character as this novel permits. It is his belief that there is more to life than empty sex, emotion-numbing drugs, and meaningless pastimes. A white boy raised on an Indian reservation, he feels like an outcast among the Native Americans, only to be overwhelmed by the promiscuous consumer culture promoted by the World State.

Violence

Science seems to have eliminated most violent tendencies in the inhabitants of Central London. On the Indian reservation, however, life is far harsher and physically punishing. John's mother is abused by her lover, by other men, and by other women in the camp. There are also scenes of self-flagellation. The end of the novel features a violent orgy and a suicide, both of which are more implied than directly dramatized.

Sex

Brave New World is permeated by sex, although there are no explicit descriptions of sexual acts. Promiscuous sex is the norm, and characters routinely speak of "having" each other. Young children are encouraged to engage in sex play with their peers. Orgies are not unusual. Men chew sex-hormone gum. Women carry elaborate contraception kits. Having grown up on the reservation in New Mexico, John seeks a romantic relationship in Central London but cannot bear the gulf between his idealistic notions and his own physical urges.

Language

African Americans are referred to as "Negroes" and Native Americans as "savages," terms not unusual at the time of the novel's publication. Because the inhabitants of Central London regard Henry Ford as a secular prophet, they use his surname as a mild expletive. Also, the word "mother" is practically an obsenity to a populace conceived and decanted from bottles.

Consumerism

The novel is set in a society given completely over to pleasure and consumerism. There are fictional products mentioned, but nothing that matches one-to-one with real-world items. The Ford brand is presented as a quasi-religion, but it's not meant to be taken seriously.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In Brave New World, "soma" is the drug of choice for nearly everyone. It seems to be a tranquilizer with hallucinatory effects. It is addicitive, and prolonged use inevitably leads to physical deterioration. On the Indian reservation, mescal is drunk by the residents, and peyote is used during tribal initiations. A major character's mother succumbs to the slow deterioration brought on by soma.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel Brave New World is one of the most famous dystopian satires in the English language. Set in a society given completely over to pleasure and consumerism, it is both humorous and chilling, and ultimately raises questions about what makes us human. Although there are no explicit descriptions of sexual acts, promiscuous sex is the norm, and there is a violent orgy. There is also a suicide. Citizens of the World State take a tranquilizing, hallucinatory drug called soma, and on an Indian reservation, residents drink mescal and use peyote during tribal initiations.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byquovadisnp May 15, 2012

Must Read

The main reason I write this review is not to discuss how great this book is but to counter the parents who condemn it because they fail to actually read it. It... Continue reading
Parent of a 8 year old Written byMamaBearNJ April 21, 2012

Ironic dystopian utopia

This classic SF novel still has relevance for our society. Huxley satirized the growth of "mass society" -- mass production, consumerism, mass media,... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byabesierra December 17, 2012

Brave New World

Sierra Lindsay Book Review Brave New World was a very interesting and intriguing piece of work. I was blown away by the concept of the story. If you look at... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bydallior08 March 17, 2015

Thought-Provoking yet Erotic

WARNING: THIS REVIEW HIGHLY INVOLVES SEX AND SEXUALITY PORTRAYED IN THE BOOK. READER DISCRETION ADVISED. In the classic dystopian novel Brave New World, many... Continue reading

What's the story?

In the far future, humanity has become almost completely dissociated from the process of reproduction. Fetuses are developed in bottles, cloned and treated with chemicals to produce infants that will fit within rigidly structured caste systems. Marriage and motherhood are unheard of. Citizens do their jobs and then relax by indulging in promiscuous sex, elaborate games, and doses of tranquilizing, hallucinatory \"soma.\" When John, a \"savage\" from an Indian reservation in what was once New Mexico, is brought to Central London, he must reconcile his beliefs with those of a bewildering, responsibility-free society.

Is it any good?

Along with George Orwell's 1984, this chilling novel is one of the most famous dystopian science-fiction novels in the English language. Aldous Huxley envisions a future where a person's destiny is determined through in vitro fertilization and prenatal treatments, leading to adulthoods ruled by consumerism and aimless sex. Although originally a critique of social trends in the 1930s, the novel is still funny, disturbing, and relevant for today's readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how well author Aldous Huxley predicted the future when he wrote Brave New World in 1932. Was he only imagining the future, or was he also commenting upon trends at the time of the novel's publication?

  • Why do you think Henry Ford is viewed as a kind of prophet by the citizens of the World State? What satirical point was Huxley trying to make with this choice?

  • Why do you think Huxley has John quote Shakespeare so often in the novel? And why do you think Huxley chose to quote Shakespeare's play The Tempest in the book's title?

  • Why do you think Brave New World continues to be read and taught in high school and college literature courses?

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