Saturday, February 23, 2008

Brave New World

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

My first impulse after reading this book was reactionary. I wanted to wake up my children from their sound sleep, cuddle with them, read them wonderful stories from living books, and bring them beautiful flowers to smell and admire. Secondly, I wanted to go off the grid. At least I could shun all television, video games, and rock music. Instead, I will be passionate about the classical education I am sharing with my children.

A few pages into Brave New World, I was unsure if I would be able to finish it. I am incredibly sensitive to mistreatment of babies and children. The conditioning of the babies was really tough for me to read. But it was short, the book moved on, and I found myself interested in the story, asking questions, thinking deep thoughts, coming up with new ideas, and wondering 'what if.' In that respect, I call this book a success and am glad I picked it.

The repeated use of Ford (as in Henry Ford) and the 'T' symbol replacing God and the cross came across as a bit comical. In many ways it lightened the atmosphere for me. I much preferred reading Ford as a swear word rather than repeated instances of God's name used in vain.

Although I loved to read books, I made it through my childhood (and teenage years) without reading futuristic, utopic, or dystopic novels. In less than two years I've read The Giver, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Ender's Game, Gathering Blue, and Brave New World.

The Giver was the first. I couldn't put it down. For me, it was the perfect introduction. I've placed this book in my top 10, not because it is one of the 10 best books ever written, but because of the new direction it took my thoughts. The way it changed me at that certain point in my life.

I chose to read Fahrenheit 451 next. It was the perfect step up. Disturbing, but fascinating and thought-provoking. It found its way to my top 50.

I moved on to 1984. Disturbing isn't the word. I almost didn't make it through that one. The utter absence of hope took my breath away. It is by far my least favorite of the group, and the one that I wouldn't recommend. One thought returned peace to my life after finishing the last page: my previous pastor's favorite words in the Bible, "But, God." That is exactly what made 1984 impossible to me. God will always exist. There will always be hope. In current and historical unimaginable horrors and oppressions, God has always been there giving hope to the hopeless. Against all odds, that seems to be when His light shines the brightest.

Ender's Game was absolutely fascinating. I could not put it down. I was breathless and exhausted by the end. What a ride. Another book for my top 50.

I thought I would move on to Gathering Blue, the second book in Lois Lowry's trilogy. I enjoyed it, but preferred The Giver.

Brave New World was somewhat of a random choice. I wanted to read a few modern novels again this year. I can't handle a steady diet of them, but want to stretch the borders of my comfort zone a bit. I read The Catcher in the Rye last year. Any suggestions for my next attempt? I have Messenger (the third in Lois Lowry's trilogy) on my list as well as Animal Farm.

I'll leave you with a few favorite quotes from Brave New World:

pg. 41

He waved his hand; and it was as though, with an invisible feather whisk, he had brushed away a little dust, and the dust was Harappa, was Ur of the Chaldees; some spider-webs, and they were Thebes and Babylon and Cnossos and Mycenae. Whisk. Whisk--and where was Odysseus, where was Job, where were Jupiter and Gotama and Jesus? Whisk--and those specks of antique dirt called Athens and Rome, Jerusalem and the Middle Kingdom--all were gone. Whisk--the place where Italy had been was empty. Whisk, the cathedrals; whisk, whisk, King Lear and the Thoughts of Pascal. Whisk, Passion; whisk, Requiem; whisk, Symphony; whisk...

pg. 205

They seemed to have imagined that [scientific progress] could be allowed to go on indefinitely, regardless of everything else. Knowledge was the highest good, truth the supreme value; all the rest was secondary and subordinate. True, ideas were beginning to change even then. Our Ford himself did a great deal to shift the emphasis from truth and beauty to comfort and happiness. Mass production demanded the shift. Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can't. And, of course, whenever the masses seized political power, then it was happiness rather than truth and beauty that mattered.

pg. 215

"... Regularly once a month. We flood the whole system with adrenin. It's the complete physiological equivalent of fear and rage. All the tonic effects of murdering Desdemona and being murdered by Othello, without any of the inconveniences."

"But I like the inconveniences."

"We don't," said the Controller. "We prefer to do things comfortably."

"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."

"In fact," said Mustapha Mond, "you're claiming the right to be unhappy."

"All right then," said the Savage defiantly, "I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."


Sarah at SmallWorld said...

I highly recommend Neville Shute's On the Beach. Awesome book in this same vein. I had end-of-the-world nightmares for weeks.

Dreams of a Country Girl said...

i read this my freshman year in college for extra credit in my biology class. it was so hard for me to break from my danielle steel novel. you see, i was into the great classic books in college also. wow -- i am going to be a great homeschool mom.

Pixie said...

I would suggest you take a look at "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood. I read it in college as an assignment and it's one book that I will never forget.

Heidi said...

Thanks for the recommendations, smallworld and pixie! I'll have to check out both of those.

Country Girl~ It is a good thing I never got started on Danielle Steel. I've always been a sucker for romance novels. :) And, yes, you will be a great homeschool mom. :)

Jenny said...

I remember reading 'Brave New World' several time during my high school years. It was one of those books that left a deep impression. I am going to find it and read it again! Thanks for the reminder.

meggan said...

Kind of along the same theme are Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I would highly recommend both of them.

I just found your blog a couple days ago and am totally hooked! Thanks for all the inspiration you've already given me!

our little acorns said...

I was going to mention The Fountainhead too! That book is absolutely intoxicating.

Thanks for being willing to share ideas with us homeschool mommas that are still finding our rhythm!