Sunday, September 30, 2012

Banned Books Week #1: Brave New World

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

Everyone in the world seems to be contented- no crime, no violence exists in their world, and no unrest- except for Bernard Marx. He sees nothing but hollowness in the way that everyone in their utopia is encouraged to have sexual relationships without love or even emotional investment. To assuage his worries, he and his friend Lenina Crowe visit a reservation where the people retain old-world customs. There, they meet John, whose mother used to live in their world. He returns with them, and hails their city as a "brave new world," (a reference to The Tempest, which is included in a book he owns, The Complete Works of Shakespeare). This "brave new world" dubs him John the Savage, and sees his view of love and family as at best quaint and at worst, obscene.

Why I think it was challenged:
This book was actually challenged in 2011, which surprises me, since the book was actually published in 1932. Since it depicts a society where sex without emotional investment or real relationship as the norm, I suppose it's considered somewhat subversive in any era. The elitist attitudes that some of the characters hold toward any culture other than theirs must be the reason racism, religious viewpoint and insensitivity are listed as reasons for this book to be challenged.
        What I find ironic about the charges of racism, insensitivity, and religious viewpoint is that the characters that hold such elitist views are not presented as sympathetic characters- instead, they're shown for the hypocritical, misled people that they are, and their denouncement of love is shown in a similar light. John, the most sympathetic character in the story, is horrified by the inhabitants of this utopia whose values are so skewed.
Even the title, Brave New World, is indicated to be an ironic statement. In The Tempest, Miranda, who has been in exile her whole life, regards the drunken, loudmouthed sailors who have been shipwrecked on her island and declares:
"O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't."
 The inhabitants of such a brave new world are not intended to be looked upon with admiration, but with horror and distrust.

1 comment:

  1. Exactly! I don't understand some of these banned books-- like you've mentioned, they're not *extolling* racism, they're holding it up for the purpose of revealing how horrible it is.