1984 by George Orwelland Brave New World by Aldous Huxley are hailed as classics for their ideas about modern society and its pitfalls. Both are excellent books worthy to be read but if a person only has time to read one book which one is more informative? One a war-ravaged country and one a land of luxury, 1984 and Brave New World are often compared as similar books due to their unique dystopian themes. While the books contain vastly different societies, they correlate in many areas, a few of which are the collective mentality, the breakdown of the family, lack of truth, and unbalanced economics.
1984 is set in the city of London in Oceana (one of the three leading powers in the world) which contains what used to be North America, South America, Australia, the tip of Africa, and England. Oppressed and depressed, the people are no longer allowed to have personal thoughts but must perceive the world as a collective. Thinking for oneself is literally illegal and known as “thought crime.” It is unclear how Oceana got to this point, but civil wars are implied. The Party (the name of their government) also seems to have disintegrated all records of the past and rewritten them to match modern society. The citizens of Oceana are daily tasked with destroying and rewriting history. They have been brainwashed to the extent that they are aware of what they are doing but simultaneously unaware of why and what their work means. Winston (the main character) is aware of the lack of common sense and is not brainwashed.
Oceana has exterminated anyone who stands out. Everyone acts the exact same, so that they don’t disappear. No one knows where the unique people disappear to, but everyone knows that it is a deadly torturous place. Government cameras are permanent and large fixtures in every room, so people are always on guard. Two rebels of the Party could be sitting side by side every day at work for years and not know that they share common beliefs. All individuality has been done away with. The masses live as one organism, all waking to the universal alarm clock, all participating in mandatory recreational time, all hating the same enemies, and all believing in the same rubbish. The ideal of the Party is that nothing beautiful remains; the Party saturates all 24 hours of the day and all creativity. Innovation has long ceased to exist. Winston seems to be just like everyone else because he has trained his face never to change expression and has found a nook in his room out of site from the camera. He knows that if someone dares to break society’s mold even in thought, they are tortured to fit into it. He knows that someday his thought life will cost him his life, yet he continues to believe in truth and be an individual. The Party never fails in getting someone to submit. The Party is always watching everyone and learning there, thought patterns, so they know everyone’s worst fears. They use these fears to brainwash their enemies.
Because family is where people find their individuality and personal values, it has been done away with. No longer does family pass on values and traditions. The Party involves the children in clubs and brainwashing propaganda which teaches them to spy on their parents. The Party takes all a child’s affection and turn it to the Party, effectually destroying parental bonding. The problems not only lie in the children but also in the parents who have been indoctrinated too. They have been taught that the reproductive instinct is merely to produce children for the Party. People are not allowed to marry if they feel any attraction for one another because love is dangerous. All the love that ordinary people used to bestow on their families, they now bestow upon the government. Winston had a wife, but she never loved him or even found him attractive. She viewed their marriage as a duty to the party to produce children. 15 years ago, Winston and she separated. He now has a girlfriend who allows him to be human by having someone to love. He wishes he could have a family with a loving wife and possibly children, but even if he had not had a previous wife the party would disapprove of his marrying his girlfriend. After all he loves her, and a loving family is the core of a happy society. Happy society breaks the code of the party.
Because family is emotionally divorced no one is passing truth on to their children. The Party provides the truth, passing it out with daily upgrades. What the Party says is truth is true. One of the party’s slogans is “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,”‘ Because the Party has all power over the news, the history, and the solid facts, they have control of people’s perceptions. Truth, concrete truth, does not exist any longer. In the following scene taken from part three, chapter two Winston is discussing this idea with someone.
“‘Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?’
‘Then where does the past exist, if at all?’
‘In records. It is written down.’
‘In records. And –?’
‘In the mind. In human memories.’
‘In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?’”
Oceana always keeps its citizens busy and in survival mode so that they do not have time, energy, or extra mental space to think. Constant war is maintained to drain resources and keep citizens in poverty. Poverty is a useful tool effectively keeping the slaves, -oh I mean citizens- working and occupied.
The second book Brave New World takes a different spin on the same issues. Set in London but taking place all over the earth Brave New World, is about a globalized society completely under the control of a select few: the World controllers. Fortunately, almost no one is aware of their servitude, so they are all very happy. That is, everyone is happy except Bernard, who has a hunch that the world could be better. Again, as in 1984 there is a theme of collective mentality. Everyone is trained from a young age that the only way to be happy is to live for the good of society. They have been engrained with the principle to deny one another nothing. The scientists are even trying to make everyone the exact same, as specified in chapter one, “Millions of identical twins. The principle of mass production at last applied to biology.” As is 1984, there is a struggle to destroy individuality.
Family does not exist, and humans are created in a lab. In this book the central theme is destruction of the Family. The scientists make batches of people, each of which is fitted for a specific job. Before the children are even created, it has been predestined what status they will be and what job they will have. Alphas are the highest class, and the lowest class is Epsilons. Each class is a certain height, from Alphas who are very tall to Epsilons who are midgets. This is because alcohol is added to the Epsilons’ containers while they are being grown, while the Alphas are allowed to grow to their full potential. Bernard is an alpha but lacks certain physical traits of his rank. Because of this he is treated as an outcast which is a large part of the reason that he is critical of society. With the government creating the children in cold sterile labs and dictating the future generation’s tastes and ideas, family is obsolete and collective life has taken its place. As one of the scientists says in chapter one, “‘We also predestine and condition. We decant our babies as socialized human beings, as Alphas or Epsilons, as future sewage workers or future.’ He was going to say, ‘future World controllers,’ but correcting himself, said ‘future Directors of Hatcheries,’ instead.”
As previously mentioned, part of the collective mentality is that people are trained to deny one another nothing. This may not seem huge, but it is. People are not allowed to deny each other physically. Promiscuity is not only recommended but pushed. There are no married couples or even faithful couples because loyalty is despised by all. Bernard wishes for a steady loyal love with one woman. Marriage at all has been done away with, so he doesn’t know that marriage is what he wants. He has a very vague idea that he would like to love more that, just skin deep. Unfortunately, no one around him feels the same because everyone has been more thoroughly brainwashed. Loyal families have love, and love of anything other than the collective is dangerous to society. Family eliminates the collective.
The collective society empowers the government. The truth hurts and so people are trained not to learn but trust what everyone else is doing. They live an empty though happy delusion. They all believe everything they are told as a group, and no one even thinks to ask questions. Questioners are removed and everyone is a trained cog in the wheel. From before they have been born, they have been conditioned to their specific role in life. While Bernard wants the truth no one else does. The danger in Brave New World is that no one wants truth because the delusion is so pretty, and the truth is so out of the ordinary. Again, the truth is not acknowledged.
Different from 1984, in Brave New World everyone lives at least a comfortable life if not a life of luxury. Because life is comfortable everyone’s senses are dead. They work, relax, work, and relax yet again. All they see in their own personal bubbles are work and entertainment. The select few who are ruling everything keep things comfortable, to put people to sleep about what is going on.
There are four things that underly both books. They are collective mentality, lack of family, lack of truth, and life distractions. Both books go about explaining the same issues, but one is focused on the dictatorship method while the other is focused of making people so happy with a lie that they will continue to live in it. In both books the government can control what people hear, see, and experience which is why the lies seem like reality. Both books also focus of the issues stemming from weak family values on a culture, but Brave New World focuses more pointedly on the correlation between no family and no individuality or truth. While 1984 is more edge of your seat intense and therefore memorable, the more informative story of western civilization’s mode of thought control is Brave New World, where people love their slavery, live crowded lonely lives, and don’t have family.