Huxley and Orwell – The Fortune Tellers

Anyone who has read 1984 will most likely tell you to read Brave New World as well. Though written by two different authors at two different times and tackling different ideas, the ideas in these books seem like puzzle pieces in their attempt to foretell the future (though I still maintain that 1984 is a better book. Sorry, not sorry Aldous Huxley). After much pestering from my way more avid reader friends, I have just finished reading Brave New World. This short analysis below is a case for reading both books and why I think their literary work has done a great job in the attempt to predict the future.

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Brave new world was birthed from Huxley’s visit to America. He was so traumatized by the technological advancements and secular nature of America- what he termed “Fordification” -that he wrote Brave New World, predicting the natural future of the world should we follow the path of America. Huxley feared that our desires would consume us to the point of slavery. George Orwell on the other hand feared the control by others, particularly the state. Orwell’s 1984 portrays a scary picture of what happens when the state takes over our ability to think for ourselves and to be autonomous beings.

Though Huxley predicted what would happen when information drowned us into passivity, Orwell contrarily predicted what would happen when we didn’t have enough information and when those in power had control over what we think and how we perceive information.

To the credit of both authors, we have seen both these predictions come to life. With Huxley, the current state of our world where we have become a bubblegum culture, too concerned with consumerism and essentially enslaved by our desires, Brave New World feels like a book written with our culture in mind. While we live in the information age, with a sea of knowledge, it would seem that Huxley’s predictions about our passivity and us drowning in irrelevance is coming to life. On the other hand, with cases such as that of Snowden and government spying prove that Orwell must have been on the money as well. The extent to which big brother controls what we perceive, how much information we are exposed to and the manner in which we process that information, 1984 seems to be playing on the world stage as well. While there are strong elements of both books in our world order, the predicted extent of either one seems to be the only element missing. Interestingly, the historic predictions never imagined the existence of both at the same time, they had created a dichotomy of existence unlike the mix we have today.

On a personal note, these books have had a profound impact on me. Orwell taught me that while I cannot escape big brother, I need to resist him. Huxley on the other hand has taught me that while our world is transforming at a rapid speed, being consumed by it is no life at all. Anything in the extreme renders that thing irrelevant and ineffective. Happiness without sadness is no happiness at all. Joy without pain, love without sacrifice all render those virtues dull and passive. They are pale when unopposed.

By Frank(ie) Talk

Frank(ie) Talk is a Development Finance Masters student at the University of Cape Town. When she is not making bracelets at Relate, you’ll find her at some coffee shop in Cape Town reading or theorizing about the World.

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