Aldous Huxley was born in Surry, England in 1894 His father was a magazine editor, and his mother was the niece of Matthew Arnold, a famous English poet and essayist. Huxley’s paternal grandfather was a well-known scientist. Thus, from birth, Huxley belonged to England’s intellectual aristocracy.
Huxley was sickly as a child; his head was so disproportionately large that he was unable to walk until he was two. His childhood nickname was “Ogie” which was short for ogre. Huxley was a very thoughtful and creative child who enjoyed drawing and “contemplating the strangeness of things,” according to his brother Julian.
At age sixteen, Huxley contracted a disease that left him blind for two years and seriously impaired his vision for the remainder of his life. Huxley said that losing his sight was an “event which prevented [him] from becoming a complete public school English gentleman.” His loss of sight also kept him from pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor; however, science would play a significant role in his writing.
Huxley attended Balliol College in Oxford in 1916. After graduating, he worked briefly as a teacher at Eton. He began writing professionally in 1920 as a drama critic and staff writer for newspapers and magazines. In his spare time, he wrote numerous poetry, essays, and other fiction.
Huxley published several novels, including Brave New World in 1932. Huxley was known for his dangerous wit and his pessimistic view of human nature. A common thread in his work is the attempt to explain the meaning and possibilities of human life and perception. He is considered one of the most accomplished and influential English literary figures of the mid-twentieth century. Huxley died on November 22, 1963.
Brave New World was published in 1932. The novel details the life of a supposed “utopian” society, which is actually a scientific dictatorship, set 600 years in the future. Initially, BNW received less than stellar reviews; critics referred to the book as weak, shallow, mechanical, and even unoriginal. With the rise of Fascism in western Europe and the Great Depression taking place, the book simply may have been too close to reality for many readers at the time.
Other complaints about the book were that it was too scientific and preoccupied with sex. Despite these negative critical reactions, BNW has been respected and interpreted by general audiences for decades.
After WWII, Huxley added a forward to the novel in which he assessed the radical changes in the world since BNW’s first publication. He speculated that the world he envisioned was becoming a reality sooner than he expected. Huxley wrote, “Today it seems quite possible that the horror may be upon us within a single century.”
In 1958, Huxley published Brave New World Revisited, in which he compares the modern world to the prophetic fantasy in his original novel. He scrutinizes threats to humanity, such as overpopulation, propaganda, and chemical persuasion.
Brave New World Revisited is considered Huxley’s final plea that mankind should educate itself for freedom before it’s too late. The New York Times Book Review stated, “It is a frightening experience... to discover how much of his satirical prediction of a distant future became reality in so short a time.”
Brave New World addresses the following issues: The power of technology in modern society The consequences of a consumer society The incompatibility of happiness and truth The dangers of an all-powerful government Alienation The impossibility of a utopian society
Like 1984 and Lord of the Flies, Brave New World actually depicts a dystopia—the opposite of a utopian society.
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