Brave New World as a Science Fiction
The famous English novelist Kingsley Amis has given this definition of science fiction: “Science fiction is that class of prose narrative treating of a situation that could not arise in the world we know, but which is hypothesised on the basis of some innovation in science or technology, or pseudo-science or pseudo-technology.” (New Maps of Hell, p. 18). According to this definition, Huxley’s novel Brave New World can rightly be put in the category of science fiction, because it presents a world and the situation existing therein, on the basis of the likely development: in the field of science in distant future. The conditions existing in the Fordian State of future may not exist at present in our world; but they are likely to exist in a world built upon the foundations of scientific and technological progress, that will be laid-or mislaid –because of man’s excessive dependence on science and its discoveries.
Science will help build up the world of future as portrayed in Brave New World. In this world, as S. Diana Neill remarks,
“Emotion has been eliminated from life, with the result that there is no art, culture, religion, love, ideals, loyalty or personality. The world is inhabited by healthy automata whose lives and amusements are completely mechanized. Now that stability has been achieved it is preserved by a rigid censorship over all scientific and philosophic investigation.”
(A Short History of the English Novel, p. 358).
In Brave New World, Huxley has thus produced a masterly work of science-fiction in which he has made use of scientific facts to make it a classic in its genre. This novel belongs to the tradition set by the writers of science fiction like the French Jules Verne and the English H.G. Wells who wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and War of the Worlds respectively.
Huxley was disgusted at the unchecked growth of science and the immense progress made in the direction of material comforts and mechanical mode of life. He wanted to warn mankind against the dangers of the unrestricted growth of science in future. With his vast knowledge of science, he imagined a future where human life was mechanized and man himself was deprived of all emotional and spiritual values because of his over- dependence on science and his indulgence in material pleasures. He presented this future world in his Brave New World. “In this Swiftian fantasy”, remarks Diana Neill,
“he presents a future state dominated by science which had discovered how to produce life in the laboratory. Pain, dirt, disease, squalor, poverty and conflict have all been abolished in this scientific paradise. Every physical desire is encouraged and can be gratified. Restraint is unknown because it is unnecessary. Science has effectively done away with the unpleasant consequences of human concupiscence. Youth, beauty, and vitality endure as long as life while conditioning of the mind and body ensure that everyone is perfectly adjusted to society and therefore cannot be other than completely happy.” (Ibid.).
But man has, in this world, lost his individual freedom and is supposed to show complete obedience to the World controller. He is not supposed to have any emotions or sentiments like love and loyalty, and is simply to live on the level of a beast. Huxley builds up a picture of such a life only to condemn it, through the Savage, and to caution us against complete subservience to science which is responsible for creating this (brave new ?) world.
As Huxley himself tells us, “The theme of Brave New World is not the advancement of science as such, it is the advancement of science as it affects human individuals.” (“Forward’, to Brave New World, p. 9). Looking around him at the immense progress made by science, Huxley seeks to caution mankind against the perils of excessive scientific and technological progress and too much enslavement of Man by science and technology.
The encroachment of science into the realms of morals and emotions is made to look as a matter of grave concern. Just as the novel is not a utopian novel, but anti-utopian one, it might be regarded as an anti-science novel instead of a work of simple science-fiction. But that may be a matter of dispute. In view of the vast amount of scientific facts and knowledge that must have gone into the writing of this novel, and the various branches of science, like eugenics, biology, etc., that have contributed to the abundant supply of details and data, all give the novel its scientific interest and basis. Keith may regard the novel “satiric utopian (or “dystopian‘) science-fiction.” (Aldous Huxley, p. 99). Huxley has shown great skill in writing a work of this kind. Paul W. Gannon is of the view that “Few writers of science fiction have equaled Huxley’s ability to make the unbelievable seem believable and to make the improbable seem probable. His own interest in science, its use and misuse, its peril and its promise, contributed to the accuracy of his presentation and to the horror of his envisioned utopia.” (Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, p. 13).