There are many different literary works that may be identified as holding great literary merit, and it is no secret that as a result of their merit that they are worthy of the attention of the masses; the question becomes, given the limited time that an individual is present in AP (Advanced Placement) or Accelerated courses, which books are worthy of inclusion within the curriculum. Of the many different books that could be included within such a curriculum, it will become apparent, through analysis, that though there are many books worthy of inclusion, one that should be present, without fail, is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
In order for a book to have literary merit it must simply have an aesthetic value, which in and of itself is not difficult, and it is a highly subjective aspect, due to the fact that the aesthetic value of a given work is based largely on the personal tastes of the individual (Thaler, 2008). Much debate has sprung up over this definition as a result of the subjectivity of its definition. As such, the argument is presented that there should be additional considerations present in order to determine true literary merit, including a concern for the truth, a decided originality, the ability to stand the test of time, and the ability for individuals of all generations to become emotionally involved with the work (Thaler, 2008). If Brave New World is viewed in light of these additional characteristics, it is possible to see that in this too, it serves to stand the test of all such qualifiers. Huxley was concerned with the truth in writing this piece of science fiction; he wished for individuals to see what the world had the potentiality to become, and in today’s day and age we can applaud him for his ability to see so far into the future, to pick out the threads of society and weave them into a clear interconnected picture of what society had the potential to become, something that is still relevant today, as we are now closer than ever to realizing Huxley’s cautionary tale as a reality. It is for these reasons and for these concerns that the individual, if one is able to truly open their eyes to see that which is being discussed, will be able to take those aspects and apply them to today’s society, becoming emotionally wroth regarding the current state of affairs and as such, taking steps to effect a certain measure of change.
Huxley’s work is one of grave literary merit for a host of reasons, not the least of which being its practical analysis of society through satire, and the fact that its author was willing to go so far as to work to write not only the science fiction classic, but a companion non-fiction text indicating to his readers exactly how much of what he prophesized and cautioned against had become a reality (Stivers, 2010). Huxley shows through truth and fact that such a society is not only possible, but plausible, and to the great lengths by which society in the 1930s was already on the path to such a world. It is not only the large scale details, but the small ones as well that work to increase the merit and the application of truth within the novel, factors that, when applied to today’s society and viewed in light of today’s society, it is possible to see their increasing worth, perhaps making the book a greater necessity today than it has ever been. If not for these distinct characteristics, Huxley’s work would potentially lose out on some of its meaning and relevancy, but as a result of a clear and insightful psychological analysis of society, it cannot be argued that today’s student would not only find the book one of great literary merit, but one worthy of the attention of all, young and old alike.
“Human beings, by their very nature, are not static creatures” (Barr, p. 847), and as such a work which attempts to describe the potentiality for change that is seen within society is one that is worth taking note over. Science fiction novels are not about the future, and it may be argued are never about the future, but about the current events that serve to affect the changing climates within society at the time they are written. There are some books, however, that remain relevant long after that time has passed. “The continuing relevance of Huxley’s dystopic novel in a contemporary and post-political context” may be seen even today, eighty two years after it was originally published, as it seeks to discuss the fact that “a passive nihilist version of “happiness” is elevated to the level of a political and ethical ideal and “freedom” is taken for granted” (Diken, p. 153).
Dystopian literature was always meant to remain a cautionary tale, urging those who would ignore the changes of society to stand up and pay attention, ensuring that they do not one day find themselves in a world in which all that they believed to be true was in fact false, and one in which all that they thought they had access to was stripped. One only has to open a newspaper or pull up a social media site in order to see that such news stories are commonplace, accepted, and considered to be a natural part of today’s society, not the least of which may be seen in the current issues with net neutrality and the potentiality of the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership); this is just one of many areas in which society today is working to shift to the society that Huxley described, one which could potentially be avoided if more were aware of what such a state could lead to, or more accurately, how such a state could lead to Huxley’s World State (Huxley, 2000). Our society has worked to mass produce the individual consumer and worked to create “template cities” that are nothing more than cookie cutter images of each other (Spierings & Van Houtum, 2008), and yet no question is asked as to why this is, whether this is the right course of action for society, or even if the individual should accept such facts as commonplace and normal. Society is becoming homogenous, and it is for this reason that Huxley’s work is still worthy of attention; it serves as a means of pointing out the reasons for this push toward homogeneity, and it serves as a means of indicating why such a homogenous culture is to the detriment, not the benefit, of our current society and our current way of life.
It is for these reasons that Huxley’s Brave New World is more relevant today than ever, and as a result of this relevancy is not only worthy of attention, but it should be seen as remiss in a student’s education if they are not introduced to the book. The World State’s motto was “community, identity, stability” (p. 1) and yet in spite of the fact that there is a perceived sense of community, no community is present. In spite of the perceived individual identity, all individuals are the same, resulting from the mass consumerism and the single template by which all individuals are expected to live their lives. Though things may seem stable it is because the only aspect that may work to affect real change has been made complacent, causing change agents to lie dormant. Huxley’s work is worthy of inclusion because it serves to allow the individual to open their eyes to new perceptions, new ways of thinking, and new thought processes, thereby working to ensure that Brave New World does not come to pass in full and, it is hoped, that those individuals who would read the work as a result of its inclusion in the AP courses and accelerated courses would be able to take that knowledge with them and actively work to apply it in the real world, ensuring that such a situation does not come more fully to pass.
While there are many different options available when attempting to select a work that best personifies the category of dystopian literature, in Brave New World the message was simple, to read and understand the cautionary tale was to ensure that the individual would not wake one day to find themselves in the society in which they had come to dread. In this, Brave New World has come to stand as a book apart; America has been slowly incorporating that which Huxley cautioned against so many years ago, but instead of realizing what is occurring and taking measures to run in the opposite direction, America has stated to embrace those changes with open arms; it is for this reason that not only is this book of grave literary merit, but the reason that it is worthy of the attention of all, especially high school students.
These students should be able to take the principles as viewed within the text, realizing that mass media, television entertainment, and formerly illegal drugs, now legalized, are just some of the methods that are being utilized to control the masses, and working to dig further to understand the reasons for these controlling influences, and in so doing, determine what may be done to negate them (Huxley, 2010). While Huxley had Soma, today it could be argued that there is a striking similarity between Soma and marijuana; a drug which works to ensure that individuals are not able to keep their thread of consciousness for long, that they are unable to think deep thoughts or to take those thoughts, if such occur, and practically apply them to a given situation due to the ease and availability of the drug. In this, as in Huxley’s world, the drug serves as one more means of controlling the population, the difference being that there is no legal limit on Soma and that it may be utilized every day, as often as the individual likes (Huxley, 2010). Soma, like marijuana, may be seen as physically and socially harmless, one that allows the individual to escape mentally from the day to day drudgery of their lives (Huxley, 2010).
The book’s literary merit stems from its ability to hit all of the major qualification for a book to meet such a consideration, but it’s worth stems from the fact of its continued relevancy to society today, ensuring that all individuals, if they took the time to pick up the book and read it, would be able to draw parallels between eighty two year old book and today’s society; the primary problem with which is due to the fact that most individuals are no longer able to recognize these issues as the problems for which they are, not as a result of their inclusion into society in and of themselves, but as a result of the use and the purpose to which they are put within today’s society. It is necessary for our high school students to learn once again how to think for themselves and the reasons why the ability to do so is of such grave importance. Books like Huxley’s Brave New World serve as a means of not only assisting students in understanding alternative ways by which to view the world, but show them the reasons why thinking for oneself is so important, and how the inability to do so, or the unwillingness to do so, may result in a situation that is entirely unacceptable.
It will serve as a means of teaching these individuals the best reasons for doing so in light of the large picture view, and in so doing, it is possible and even likely that this will work to affect change within their lives on the smaller scale as well. The true understanding of this book could have such large scale repercussions, as long as the lessons that are learned continue to be applied throughout daily life, as to work to change the current fabric of society, creating a society shaped by thought as opposed to one shaped by the government.
Though there are other books that could be included, even within the dystopian literature category, than Brave New World, and though references to Orwell’s 1984 have become more popular within today’s society, it may be stated that Huxley’s view as to what may come to pass is the more accurate one. Looking outside of the reasons already touted to explain the process by which the book remains relevant, there are a host of other concerns present that though less of a focus, are still equally as important, from the shift of the fertilization process to a bottle to genetic engineering, both factors that have been in play for many decades, and factors which continue to shape our society in subtle ways, to behavioral modification techniques utilized within the classroom that have been applied successfully to the students within the book (Huxley, 2010). It is not simply the large picture that works to make the book worthy of consideration, it is all the different aspects of the book that are applicable to today’s society, and how each of those different factors may be seen not as a way to better society as a whole, but rather may be viewed through the alternative light of simply another means and method of working to control individuals to make the job of the government an easier one.
The book’s strong literary merit, coupled with the many reasons that it is worthy for attention, should all serve as strong considerations for the re-inclusion of such a text within the AP coursework and curriculum, from which it has been so long removed. The concise points that are made by Huxley throughout the text through the use of satire, straight commentary, and the inability of the characters within the book to see the myriad ways in which they are controlled, it will be possible, with a nudge in the right direction from the teacher, to create a clearly aware class of students reconditioned so that they are no longer accepting of the changes within society, but willing to view the pros and cons of each decision and each choice made, serving to affect benefits for the common good and the betterment of themselves, if nothing else. The necessity to separate oneself from the collective, if for no other reason, should be enough to ensure that this particular text is worthy of inclusion not only in AP and Accelerated curriculums, but in all high school curriculums, allowing students to see what they will be up against as they graduate from high school and start their path into society on their own merits. It may be argued that perhaps today’s students, now more than ever, will serve to benefit from this book, and if it is not returned to such a curriculum, the world as we know it may one day be gone forever, replaced with nothing but mimicry as we cry, “In Ford we Trust” (Huxley, 2010).