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Medaille College has selected and purchased Aldous Huxley’s book, Brave New World, for all freshmen to read prior to the Fall 2014 semester. The key to success at Medaille is being an active, engaged learner. Brave New World has been chosen to help students to begin to engage actively with important ideas and to inspire them as they embark on their college careers.
In Brave New World, Huxley asks the reader to consider what he/she should be willing to give up in order to achieve “community”, “identity”, and “stability”. Written as a satire, the novel gives readers a glimpse of a futuristic (or maybe not so futuristic) world where technological advantages have become the means by which freedom and individuality are suppressed. This dystopian perspective offers the reader a way to explore the advantages and disadvantages of technological advances and to question whether it is in our best interests to embrace those advances without question.
Reading actively means holding an inner dialogue with the author. Reading actively is a skill that everyone must continually develop, and it involves strategies that are very different from the passive posture that we adopt, for example, when we watch television. The links, information and questions below will provide some resources that will help you to enjoy Huxley’s book and to develop your active reading skills.
About the Author
Aldous Huxley was born July 26, 1894, in Godalming, England. He published his first book in 1916 and worked on the periodical, Athenaeum, from 1919 1921. Thereafter he devoted himself largely to his own writing. Huxley spent much of his time in Italy until the late 1930s, when he settled in California. Huxley established himself as a major author in his first two published novels, Crome Yellow and Antic Hay. His most famous work is Brave New World, published in 1932.
In Brave New World, Huxley expressed his skepticism of technology’s growing role in society and of the rise of the mass consumerism. Through the use of satire, he voiced his concern that human beings might become subjugated through the sophisticated use of mass media, by the socially-sanctioned use of mood-altering drugs, or by the misapplication of sophisticated technology.
Links to Interviews and Reviews
Issues to Consider &
Questions for Reflection
The Power of Narrative: Stories can entertain us. They can make us think. Sometimes we use them to help us to go to sleep. Stories can also play a vital role in creating our sense of collective and individual identity. Stories can help us to shape the ways in which we think and feel about our world and in how we interact with that world. Stories can inspire us. They can persuade us to look at our world in new and often more positive ways. They can encourage us to take action and to make changes for the better.
Huxley uses satire, a way of using humor to critique the modern world and to expose its follies and abuses. Huxley also attempts to encourage his readers to think deeply about the relationship between technology and freedom.
The following are some questions to help you reflect further on Huxley’s strategy:
Technology and Humanity: Huxley’s title is taken from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. The line is "Oh, wonder! / How many goodly creatures are there here! / How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, / That has such people in’t!” The title is ironic, Shakespeare’s character, Miranda, mistakenly believes that a group of drunken sailors are civilized savages and Huxley uses this line to convey the same type of irony when John the Savage utters this very line upon observing The World State.
What might be the relationship between civilization and technology? Does our technology necessarily make us more “civilized”?
The following are some questions to help you to reflect on this relationship:
Community and Individuality: The word community refers to a group of people that share common interests and bonds. In Brave New World, however, community is defined by state control, by mass consumerism and by a mind-numbing pursuit of superficial happiness. The motto of the World State is “Community, Identity, Stability”. What does that motto really mean?
The following are some questions to help you to reflect on the issues of community and individuality:
Final Thought: Have we already entered a Brave New World?
The instructors were knowledgeable and welcomed class discussions, with
respect for each student's contribution. I've learned how to be a more
effective leader. My capstone class gave insight on how to combine all
the education learned to operate a business. That's when I realized how
much I had sharpened my knowledge.