Brave New World and Dubliners

Brave New World, written by Aldous Huxley, is a thought provoking novel set in a future of genetically engineered people, amazing technology and a misconstrued system of values.  Dubliners, written by James Joyce, is  a collection of short stories painting a picture of life in Dublin Ireland, near the turn of the 19th century.  Though of two completely different settings and story lines, these two works can and will  be compared and contrasted on the basis of the social concerns and issues raised within them.

One of the first things stressed in Brave New World is the idea that there is no real discrimination.  Though it is true that there is a class system, the classes are derived from the fact that people are genetically engineered to fit a certain role in their lives.  For example, there are five classes as follows: Alpha, Beta, Delta, Epsilon and Gamma.  Each of these classes is then subdivided into three sections: Plus, Normal and Minus.  An Alpha Plus (highest in the class system) would look down on and think less of a Gamma Minus (lowest in the class system).  This form of discrimination, however, is not really discrimination in that it has no moral basis as each person in each class is conditioned from birth to be completely happy at their station in life and especially glad that they aren’t of a different class.

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Aside from the fact that there is no moral basis behind this, for there to actually be discrimination, those being discriminated against would have to know that it was happening and in Brave New World such realizations do not occur.  Due to this same fact, there is no gender or racial discrimination either, not even the mention of a nationality; all people in the civilization are simply people.  That Huxley created this world of equality may have been an ironic stab at the time in which he lived.  Within Dubliners, however, the attitudes toward nationality and gender  of the time it was written are present, though not in any astonishing proportion.  There is evidence of this in the following quotation from “The Dead”.

-Well I’m ashamed of you, said Miss Ivors frankly.  To say you write for a rag like that.  I didn’t think you were a West Briton.(Joyce 188)

Though not an extremely discriminant remark, its prejudicial tone is evident.  The use of discrimination within Dubliners is not largely important to the story lines except in that it adds more realism to Joyce’s stories as the discrimination reflects the views of the time.

Next to discrimination, another issue that is in contrast between Dubliners and Brave New World is love. Within Dubliners, different representations of love can be found throughout.  Two such representations, loss of love and love never felt, can be found within “Eveline” and “The Dead” respectively.  The following quotations illustrate.

He rushed beyond the barrier and called to her to follow.  He was shouted at to go on but he still called to her. She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal.  Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition.(Joyce 34)

He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover’s eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live. Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes.  He had never felt like that himself towards any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love.(Joyce 224)

The significance of these passages is not in the manner in which love is represented, but rather that it is represented at all because in the civilization which exists within Brave New World such scenes between two normal people would never appear.  No two normal people in the civilization described fall in love, though there is an expression of love by one not of the aforementioned civilization.  The reason that Huxley’s future does not contain love is due to the fact that in his world “every one belongs to every one else” and as a result, what need is there for love?  Especially if love can be defined as being comfortable and intimate with someone who accepts one for who they are and all they stand for.  If that were the case then in Brave New World, in a convoluted way, every single person, in belonging to everyone else, also loves everyone else. But as love can not be defined so simply, this is not true.

The absence of love in Huxley’s novel is most obviously deliberate, just as the inclusion of love in certain pieces in Dubliners is intentional.  The reason it appears obvious is that Huxley goes to great lengths to describe his world in great detail and yet does not mention love as a part of it.  The reason love is brought to bear as a social issue is that without it, imagine how bland things would be.  For example, fine art would have no passion, literature would contain no romance, music would be lifeless without the soul behind it.  All these things and more make love a thing of huge importance in life.  Michael Furey, in “The Dead” would not have had The Lass of Aughrim to sing, the narrator of “Araby” would have had no reason to go to the bazaar, in fact, many of the stories within Dubliners may never have been written.

Love also plays a large role in family.  Within Dubliners, family is an important factor in various stories.  One such story is “Eveline”.  Though it is true that in this situation, the family described may not be a precisely happy one, it is a family nonetheless.  A family in which life was given to Eveline through the miracle of birth, in which she was shaped into the person she became by her parents.  Family allows people to become individuals through their different experiences and create their own value systems adapted from their parents.  In Brave New World the concept of family is one that does not exist.

All children are birthed from bottles and raised collectively, no women give birth.  This kind of system does not produce individuals but rather robots.  Besides the fact that the children are raised collectively, they also undergo mental conditioning from birth in the form of subliminal messages and aversive conditioning.  From the time they are infants through childhood they are repeatedly exposed to messages in their sleep that affect the way they think, act and feel.  The following are examples of one of the forms of conditioning the children are subjected to.

Ending is better than mending.  Ending is better than mending.(Huxley 41)

I do love flying, I do love flying.(Huxley 41)

These are but two mild examples of the things ingrained into the minds of the children of Brave New World.  The following illustrates to what degree these suggestions affect the minds of the children.

Till at last the child’s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child’s mind.  and not the child’s mind only.  The adult’s mind too-all his life long.  The mind that judges and desires and decides-made up of these suggestions.  But all these suggestions are our suggestions!(Huxley 22)

A family less system of child rearing, especially as described in Brave New World, is a disturbing thought.  As stated earlier, people learn worlds from their parents and in a world in which parents do not exist, people, on the individual level, cease to exist.  In their place, only a mindless collective remains, with no independent thought that hasn’t been previously ingrained.  In a case like this it is difficult to tell whether Huxley’s Brave New World is his idea of an ideal existence, or its opposite.

The minds of these two authors, Aldous Huxley and James Joyce, are extremely differing in their handling of the issues discussed here.  Aside from those mentioned, one other thing strikes a note of discord.  The way in which they, as writers, deal with death in their writings.  In Huxley’s novel, death is not looked upon as something of great import nor something to worry about.  In Brave New World the dead are taken to a factory where their remains are disposed of and the chemicals released from the procedure are captured and used in various ways.  In Dubliners, death pervades such stories as, obviously, “The Dead” and “The Sisters” and is even mentioned in “Eveline”.

Joyce’s manner of dealing with death in his writings is much more realistic than that of Brave New World in that, as one example, the people who die are grieved for.  Again, Joyce’s realism in his writings can easily be attributed to the fact that he attempts to be as accurate as possible in keeping with his era.  Huxley, on the other hand, flings all realism out the window in an attempt to create a nearly unimaginable scene.  In doing so, the two authors compliment each other in a most interesting and thought provoking manner.

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