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Free Study Guide-Brave New World by Aldous Huxley-Free Booknotes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 17

Summary

The Savage and the Controller continue to debate on the merits and demerits of the old and new worlds. The Controller has a good collection of "old" books from which he has learned a great deal; they are now, however, put away and labeled as "smut" to the new civilization. Yet during the debate with John, Mond often refers to them. Discussing the need for a god, the Controller cites Cardinal Newman and Maine de Biran, two philosophers from the past. He explains how all those things that create the need for a god, including old age, sickness, and insecurity, have been eliminated in the brave new world; therefore, Mond argues that a god is no longer required.

John argues that God is needed in moments of heroism, noble sentiments, solitude, dark moments, and death. The Controller refutes him and says that in the new world there is soma, permanent youth, insulation from solitude, and other social benefits, making a god unnecessary. In the end the battle becomes God, poetry, freedom, feelings, goodness, sin, and misery vs. Ford, total conditioning, passive acceptance, and science. In other words, the choice in Mond's mind seems to be the right to unhappiness caused by individuality vs. no rights at all leading to social stability, conformity, and a lack of unhappiness. John clearly prefers an imperfect, but free world to a sterile, scientific, and controlled one, as seen in the brave new world.


Notes

This is a stimulating and thought-provoking chapter. It points out the conflict between democracy, with all its individual challenges, and totalitarianism, with all its stifling affects. In the brave new world, where individual effort is not allowed in the interest of social stability, pure art, science, and religion, the things that set humanity above all other creatures are forbidden. In their place, mammon and materialism become gods. Huxley seems to be warning society against consumerism, which he sees as a type of totalitarianism.

Unfortunately, in the novel Huxley presents the old world as primitive and the new world as an illusioned utopia. It seems that there should and does exist a middle ground in between the two extremes. In fact, Huxley himself, in his foreword to the 1946 edition of the novel, states that his alternatives--primitivism or utopianism--are very narrow and limited and that a third realistic alternative, suitably composed of elements from both, should not be ruled out. Between the insanity of the Savage Reservation and the lunacy of a totalitarian London, humankind must have a third choice.

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