Lance Scranton: Brave New World
Every time we read the classic novel “Brave New World,” by Aldous Huxley, students are drawn into the story for unexpected reasons. Students understand the Dystopian future of this world predicated on the observance and worship of stability. Through stability and all it promises, students begin to understand the lure of a contemptuous group of benevolent leaders whose only objective is to satiate any desire for taking chance or risk.
Through the increased physical freedoms afforded the society, mental and intellectual inquiry is cast aside and replaced with the promise of a eugenic paradise, in which everyone is born specifically to fulfill a desired purpose predetermined in a test tube. Religion is inferior, family is archaic, love is disgusting and emotions (other than happiness) are contemptible.
The triumph of humanism is a society of people who are amusing themselves to death (but even death is held in check by the right pills). Emotions are held in check by the placating of any undesirable feelings throughn the use of a drug called soma.
OK, it’s really weird, but it prepares students for the more serious themes in George Orwell’s, “1984.” The unexpected reasons students are drawn into the story is the contradictory nature of the inhabitants of this Dystopian nightmare. Everything seems free, easy, dependable and stable, but the students see through the curtains and demand that we cast light on the obvious infractions of human nature prevalent in the story. The hypocrisy and horror of dishonesty, disingenuousness and disregard are clearly evident in the students’ analysis of the culture.
When you begin to think that students are being brainwashed by the technology that holds them captive or the rotting culture that surrounds them, just remember: We were once there, too, and people worried about us and what we would do to have a future past the horrors of world wars, economic depressions, hyper-consumerism, selfishness, television and total teen-age stupidity.
Somehow, the words in novels make an impact, history lessons take root, culture makes a few adjustments and we wake up to a new world — just not one of our making. Maybe that is the lesson of history that each of us will have to confront bravely someday.
Lance Scranton is a teacher and coach at Moffat County High School.