10 Brave New World facts you need to know

10 Brave New World facts you need to know

10 July 2015

by Nick Rice

How much do you know about Huxley’s Brave New World? We’ve picked ten things we think are essential to understanding the dystopian world he imagined.

1. Huxley wrote Brave New World in four months

2. Brave New World takes its title from Miranda’s speech in Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Act V, Scene I)
The Tempest

O wonder!
How many godly creatures are there here!

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,

That has such people in’t.

3. Huxley started Brave New World as a parody. Huxley was reading H. G. Wells’s utopian novel Men Like Gods when he became irritated by its optimism and felt compelled him to write a derisive parody.

H.G. Wells

"I found the subject so fascinatingly pregnant with so many kinds of literary and psychological possibilities that I forgot Men Like Gods and addressed myself in all seriousness to the task of writing the book that was later to be known as Brave New World".
Aldous Huxley

4. Huxley described the book in a letter to his father in 1931:

"…I have been harried with work – which I have at last, thank heaven, got rid of: -  a comic, or at least satirical, novel about the Future, showing the appallingness  (at any rate by our standards) of Utopia…"

5. Utopian writer H.G. Wells and playwright George Bernard Shaw are immortalised in the book. Wells becomes Dr Wells while references to Shaw can be seen in three characters: George Edzel, Bernard Marx and Dr Shaw.

6. Huxley was influenced by Henry Ford’s 1922 manifesto My Life and Work, which he found in a ship’s library during a voyage to America in 1926.

Henry Ford

Huxley’s visit to America is one of the reason’s he was so pessimistic toward the future. Like many at the time, Huxley believed that the American way of life would lead the future.

"The thing which is happening in America is a revaluation of values, a radical alteration, for the worse, of established standards"
Aldous Huxley, Jesting Pilate 1926

In Brave New World, Ford is substituted in instances wherever people would say Lord in our own reality. Huxley also gives Ford’s first name to the character of Henry Foster, poking fun at his desire for things to be done as quickly as possible.

7.  Huxley drew on emerging understanding from scientists such as Ivan Pavlov, John B. Watson and Hans Spemann who were concerned with the ability to manipulate behaviours and response.

8. Sigmund Freud’s revolutionary ideas about sexuality and the effects of early childhood experiences on the psyche further influenced Huxley’s imagining of reproduction and the potential for psychological conditioning.

9. The Brave New Worlders wonder drug ‘soma’ was derived from the name of a ritual drink Huxley had read about in the Vedas, a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Extracted from a plant, soma was worshipped and said to achieve trancelike states. 

Soma 

O Soma, You purify everything. You are the best source of enlightenment. You lead us towards immortality.
Rigveda 9.108.3

 

10. Twenty-seven years after writing Brave New World, Huxley revisited his work with an even greater pessimism and fear about the future:

"I feel a good deal less optimistic than I did when I was writing Brave New World. The prophecies made in 1931 are coming true much sooner than I thought they would"
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited 1958

Brave New World premieres at Royal and Derngate, Northampton, where it runs from 4 to 26 September 2015. It then tours to Edinburgh, Blackpool, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Bradford where it concludes on 5 December.