Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Giveaway Info and the Story Without a Hero

Hi guys! The winner to my giveaway will be chosen and announced tomorrow. I just wanted to tell everyone that this day is your last chance to enter. Good luck!

And thank you SO MUCH to the people who have entered and subscribed. You guys are great. :) I’ve been reading all of your book suggestions, and many of them will go on the full 25-book list. The next book I’ll be reading, however, will be The Divine Comedy: Inferno. I’ll also be doing something special with Dante Alighieri’s La Vita Nuova (hence my new banner :) ).

And now, my last post directly related to Brave New World:

Rather than discussing the conclusion of Brave New World, I’m going to discuss its main protagonist, Bernard Marx. Brave New World and 1984 are often compared, as they’re both dystopian novels in which a futuristic government has obtained complete control through technological means. I haven’t read 1984 in a long time, but I do remember that it centered around a man and woman who aimed to escape their totalitarian government.

This is typically what protagonists do. Protagonists tend to be the good guys who, if they don’t start out being moral and idealistic and all the things we admire, are awesome by the end of the story. Or if they’re not awesome, the story centers around their downfall, which is usually intended to teach a lesson. (Like in The Picture of Dorian Gray.) But Brave New World is less personal than that; in many ways, it wasn’t about Bernard. Bernard Marx was neither good nor bad. He just was. He just was in this annoying, petty, jealous kind of way. My first instinct was to dislike him, but his role in the story breaks a cliché about novels – especially dystopian ones – so I’ve tried to overcome my initial feelings.

Brave New World belongs on the canon simply due to its superb originality. It’s a dystopian story without a hero. (You can argue that John the Savage was the hero, but I will disagree.) The novel says, “Here is a society based around consumerism. Look how much it sucks.” And there’s more to be learned from that then, say, many recently-published dystopian stories that involve courageous young heroes who overthrow totalitarian governments and live happily ever after (not that I’m putting any of the dystopian stories with happy endings down). This book tells us that if we keep embracing extreme consumerism, and if we rely on buying, buying, buying to keep our capitalistic economy healthy, then we’re sacrificing our morals.

Capitalism is immoral, says Brave New World, because it relies on immoral strategies to get consumers to buy. Those strategies include Huxley’s fictional hypnopaedia or, as a more relatable example, a real life commercial that uses psychological tricks to exploit human vulnerability. Most advertisements we see exploit our humanity in order to dehumanize us.

Think of the commercial that convinces you that you need to buy clothes from Store X, and this commercial airs all across the country so that millions believe they need to shop at Store X. Store X’s commercial has taken advantage of our innate psychological vulnerabilities as people. We can be convinced we need something, even when we don't. And if humanity is defined by our intrinsic individuality, then millions of people shopping at Store X have allowed themselves to be robbed of a bit of their humanity.  

This book, as dystopian novels often do, took one quality of our world and brought it to the extreme. Huxley magnified mass consumerism so that he could further inspect it and prove its inevitable immorality. John the Savage, the only moral character in the story, died after coming face-to-face with the World State. Bernard succumbed to immorality once he reached his zenith of fame, and took every woman he wanted. Etc. Because of the World State’s economic system, immorality was intertwined with every facet of life for its citizens.

One time my sister and I were on a walk. Out of the blue, she asked me if a capitalistic society is destined to sacrifice ethics for profit. I thought about it for a block or so. Can a capitalist society remain moral and intact? I couldn’t decide. In the end, I told her I didn’t have enough information on the topic.

One of the reasons why I’ve made this blog is so that I can “prove” reading has a direct impact on peoples’ lives. Brave New World has allowed me to answer my sister’s question as I was unable to before. This certainly counts as a direct impact, but I bet I can take it further.

Aldous Huxley thought warning others about the failings of mass consumerism was so important that he wrote a novel about it. I respect that immensely, and am willing to apply his views in the real world.

Rather than endlessly questioning myself about how consumerism has shaped my identity, I’m going to see how a lack of materialism will reshape my identity and quality of life. Perhaps some of you have heard of the 100 Thing Challenge (if not, go here: Because I've read Brave New World, I will participate in that challenge for the remainder of this blog project. I’ll have to make time to get rid of, give away, and sell my things, but once it happens I’ll certainly blog about it!
Until next time, happy reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment