In the "brave new world" of 632 A. F. (After Ford), universal human happiness has been achieved. (Well, almost.) Control of reproduction, genetic engineering, conditioning--especially via repetitive messages delivered during sleep--and a perfect pleasure drug called "Soma" are the cornerstones of the new society. Reproduction has been removed from the womb and placed on the conveyor belt, where reproductive workers tinker with the embryos to produce various grades of human beings, ranging from the super-intelligent Alpha Pluses down to the dwarfed semi-moron Epsilons.

Each class is conditioned to love its type of work and its place in society; for example, Epsilons are supremely happy running elevators. Outside of their work, people spend their lives in constant pleasure. This involves consuming (continually buying new things, whether they need them or not), participating in elaborate sports, and free-floating sex. While uninhibited sex is universal and considered socially constructive, love, marriage, and parenthood are viewed as obscene.

The story concerns Bernard, an alpha whose programming is a bit off--he is discontented and desires to spend time alone just thinking or looking at the stars. At one point he takes Lenina on a vacation to the savage reservation in New Mexico. There he discovers John (the Savage), son of Linda who had visited the reservation more than 20 years previously and was accidentally left behind. When she discovered she was pregnant (the ultimate humiliation!), she had to remain among the savages. John returns to the Brave New World where he is feted as the Visiting Savage. However, he cannot adapt to this totally alien society and, ultimately, he takes his own life.


Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1931, before the advent of the Nazi totalitarian state, the more extreme development of the Soviet state during the 1930's, and the Second World War. His version of total control was based on conditioning and drugs, rather than military might and terror. The vision was implemented by principles of mass production and consumption. Thus, Henry Ford was adopted as the new god. Where once there was Christ and his Cross, in the brave new world they had Ford and his Flivver.

It is interesting to compare Huxley's new society with the one George Orwell describes in 1984. Perhaps because Orwell wrote in 1947 after the cataclysm of the war and in full knowledge of the new totalitarianism, his dystopian vision was grounded in terror and brainwashing. While in both societies people were simply clogs of the state, in Brave New World the state provided continual pleasure as a substitute for freedom.

Toward the end of the book, the World Controller explains to Bernard and the Savage why contentment is more important than freedom or truth. This lengthy explanation is very much like the Grand Inquisitor's tale in The Brothers Karamazov.


First published: 1932. Foreword written by the author for the 1946 edition.


Harper Perennial

Place Published

New York



Page Count