Themes in: Brave New World

Brave New World is a novel by Aldous Huxley, published in 1932. I already wrote a book review of Brave New World, which you can click here to read. This blog post will not be an inherent discussion of themes in Brave New World, but a discussion of genres instead.

Science Fiction?

Like The Time Machine, Brave New World can be considered science fiction because it is a novel about a futuristic world with extraordinary technological advancements. For example, the society in Brave New World learn through hypnopaedia, a method that teaches a wide range of information during sleep, and laboratories are used to engineer future generations with perfect precision. This emphasis on efficient technology was inspired by Henry Ford’s car factories, as Ford highly valued precise engineering and efficient production. The notion of technological, genetic engineering instead of biological reproduction was also inspired by discussions at the time surrounding eugenics and the possibility of a perfected human race.

Utopian?

Speaking of perfection, Brave New World is an arguably Utopian novel because, as in The Time Machine, there is a strong emphasis on leisure and entertainment, which is most notable in the hedonistic culture encouraged throughout the novel. For example, citizens attend the ‘Feelies’ instead of the cinema which show highly sexualised films with lifelike details and ‘amazing tactual effects’ the viewers can experience themselves (Chapter 3, p. 29). Sexual encounters are encouraged to happy as regularly as possible, with anyone and everyone, to increase happiness. This is demonstrated with the slogan ‘everyone belongs to everyone else’ (Chapter, p. 37). Furthermore, citizens are encouraged to regularly use the Soma, a drug which increases happiness and decreases worries, anxieties, or dissatisfactions, should they occur. Thus, society is too drugged on hedonistic pleasures to ever consider an uprising against the government. As previously mentioned, children are engineered to save time and the physical effort and expenditure of pregnancy and childbirth. Children are “born” into a rigid class system, determined by their DNA, which determines their quality of life, social status, and employment for the rest of their life. As children, their playtimes are monitored and controlled and as adults, their working hours are meticulously regulated.  In theory then, Brave New World presents an efficient, perfect, Utopian society that is socially, economically and politically successful.

Dystopian?

However, Brave New World can equally be described as Dystopian. Although the government has made many technological advancements and is trying to make society the best it can be, this has negative consequences.  The government regulate and control every aspect of citizens’ lives from their birth to their death; they are “born” from a test tube and after death, their bodies are cremated for ‘phosphorus recovery’, harvesting ‘a kilo and a half per adult corpse’ (Chapter 5, p. 63). The government provide regular Soma and birth-control, to encourage and enforce drug use and promiscuous sex. The government introduced hyphopodia to indoctrinate children to conform to the ideologies of the state. It is evident there is an overwhelming lack of free will and true happiness because society is brainwashed, oppressed, and trapped under totalitarian control, in the government’s pursuit of efficiency and perfection.

Ultimately, the decision as to whether Brave New World is truly Utopian or truly Dystopian is left for the reader to decide. I know I wouldn’t like to live there though.

– Judith

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Themes in: The Time Machine

The Time Machine is a novella by H.G. Wells, published in 1895. I already wrote a book review of The Time Machine, which you can click here to read. This blog post will not be an inherent discussion of themes in The Time Machine, but a discussion of genres instead.

Science Fiction?

The Time Machine most clearly belongs to the science fiction genre, as it contains many conventions associated with the science fiction genre, such as time travel, technology, and the future – the most obvious example being the fact the Time Traveller travels in time to the year A.D. 802,701. He does so with a remarkably advanced piece of technology – particularly for Victorian England – called a time machine, which is ‘delicately made’ from a ‘crystallin substance’ (Chapter 1, page 6). Ironically however, upon the Time Traveller’s arrival into the future, he notes that there is ‘no machinery’ and ‘no appliances of any kind’ (Chapter 5, p. 43) technological advancements have been lost and society has regressed into a simpler, primitive way of life. The Time Traveller also finds the future sublime and inexplicable, which is another convention of the science-fiction genre. This is demonstrated with the numerous rhetorical questions the Time Traveller asks such as ‘Why?’ and ‘How shall I put it?’ (Chapter 5, p. 43), as he struggles to comprehend the new world around him. Furthermore, towards the end of The Time Machine, The Time Traveller travels further into the future to see the apocalyptic end of the world – another convention that can be considered part of science fiction narratives – and watches as the world is consumed by an ‘inky black’ darkness,  a ‘glowing scarlet’ sky and is left utterly lifeless and cold (Chapter 11, p. 88).

Utopian?

The Time Machine can also be considered a Utopian novel. The Utopian genre often focuses on a society which has been perfected, and can enjoy peace and happiness. Indeed, these genre conventions are reflected in The Time Machine. The Eloi, the people of A.D. 802,701 focus their lives on fun, food, and a life of leisure. In this futuristic world, there are many beautiful flowers and gardens, which contrasts against the heavily industrialised setting of Victorian London the Time Traveller has departed from. Furthermore, The Time Traveller observes that the Eloi spend all their time ‘playing’, ‘bathing’, ‘eating’ and ‘sleeping’ (Chapter 5, p. 43). Undoubtedly, many would find this prospect incredibly desirable and relaxing.

Dystopian?

However, these same aspects of The Time Machine can be considered Dystopian, which is the exact opposite of the Utopian genre. Dystopian literature focuses on a world considerably worse than the author’s own, and life is usually oppressive or unfulfilling – or both. The Time Traveller arrives in A.D. 802,701 expecting to find a far more advanced human race than his own, a notion influenced by Darwinian theory of continual evolutionary progression. This is not the case. Instead, humanity has degenerated and split into 2 distinct species, both of which are worse than the Victorian society The Time Traveller left behind. The Eloi may have a seemingly fun and easy life, but they have lost their mental stimulation, physical strength, creativity, knowledge, and intelligence. They lack the motivation for … anything.  The Morlocks have also regressed and are akin to cavemen, as they hide underground and hunt the Eloi at night for meat. This presents the idea of evolutionary regression and is the direct opposite of a perfected, Utopian society.

To sum up, as I hope I’ve demonstrated, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells draws on conventions from the science fiction, Utopian and Dystopian genres.

– Judith

Book Review: Ordeal by Innocence

Ordeal by Innocence is a murder mystery detective novel by the famous crime author Agatha Christie.

Mrs Rachel Argyle is found dead in her home. Her adopted son, Jack, is found guilty and sentenced. He dies in prison. Two years later, a man comes forward with an alibi for Jack, proving he was innocent. The question is, if Jack Argyle didn’t murder his mother, who did?

Image via BBC

Though I’ve only read a few so far, I’ve decided I really like Agatha Christie stories. They’re short but fun to read, and I like her clear style of writing.

I liked that there were some red herrings and a whole range of different plot devices used to withhold or reveal key pieces of information. I liked trying to understand the mystery and keep track of various clues that could be useful later on.

The characters were fine – although a little shallow and archetypal – and as there were so many characters, I felt they crowded one another.

Whilst I enjoyed reading through the mystery, I thought that the “whodunnit” reveal was annoyingly brief. When the true culprit was revealed, I was left a bit disappointed. Mostly, this was because I’d been imagining other possible endings, investigating the characters myself, and imagining potential secrets or motivations. However, my predictions were all wrong and I was dissatisfied with the answer given to me.

I haven’t seen the BBC adaptation of Ordeal by Innocence yet – although if it’s as good as their adaptation of And Then There Were None, I want to try and watch it at some point.*

*Since writing this blog post, I have watched the Ordeal by Innocence adaptation – all three episodes in one evening. Whilst a lot of key plot and character elements were altered, I still think the story was enjoyable as a dark, gritty drama. I really like the style of filming used for both the Ordeal by Innocence and And Then There Were None adaptations, and I admire the way the BBC have turned Christie’s books from an arguably light-hearted, rather quick-paced murder mystery into intriguing, dark, and mysterious TV series.

Overall, Ordeal by Innocence was still a fun read, but not as enjoyable as And Then There Were None (which still remains my favourite so far) but I liked reading more of Agatha Christie’s work.

– Judith