I have a confession: I haven’t read that many classics. I read the Required High School Tour of English Literature and then, well, not much. But BRAVE NEW WORLD came up in reference to a number of dystopias I read over the last five years or so, and it was finally time to read it.
A lot of classics can be dry and stuffy, but BRAVE NEW WORLD was surprisingly compelling. It had interesting characters, snappy dialogue, a chillingly realized world, and real questions to ask about human nature.
What surprised me most about BRAVE NEW WORLD was that the first thirty pages or so were a complete infodump. Seriously. We weren’t introduced to a main character for quite a while. It was flat-out world building, with no effort to contextualize it in action that affected our main characters.
And it worked anyway.
BRAVE NEW WORLD starts off with the Director giving a tour of the facility where humans are bred and conditioned to fit into their proper social cast: Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. Lower casts are exposed to alcohol and other stressors to limit their development, and all the children listen to “hypnopaedic” tracks as they sleep, absorbing the rules of their kind.
From there, we are introduced to Bernard Marx, an Alpha-Plus but a misfit, who is taking a trip to New Mexico to visit the uncivilized people that live there. While there, he meets John, the son of the Director and his weekend fling, Linda, who had visited New Mexico years ago but got separated. When Bernard decides to bring John back, well, all hell breaks lose.
John is a figure of instant celebrity, and as his keeper, Bernard gets to bask in the reflected fame. But things turn quite sour, quite quickly, as John realizes how terrible the regimented society is, how infantile the populace has become, and how the concepts of romance and monogamy have been lost.
In the end, John has to retreat from the society he once idolized, claiming his own right to be unhappy if he chooses.
BRAVE NEW WORLD asked a lot of great questions. The world it presented was at once idyllic and repulsive. And yet, nothing was ever too far a cry from what we know about human nature today.
And the ending left me feeling pretty depressed.
All in all, BRAVE NEW WORLD was a great read. I enjoyed it far more than I expected to going in. If all classics were this fun, this provocative, and this unpretentious, I would read a lot more of them.