1984 by George Orwell | Rating: 5/5
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley | Rating: 4.5/5
Warning: This review is full of spoilers.
1984 and Brave New World are two dystopian novels which have always been compared to each other. Questions such as which book represents the current world rise frequently.
I believe George Orwell’s book was a nightmare written about the present. On the contrary, Aldous Huxley’s book was an exaggerated version of society in the future. In fact, 1984’s Appendix could be considered as the future; a future where humanity was saved.
Brave New World had some extremely interesting ideas, however, Huxley’s writing made it difficult to connect with the characters. But I found it interesting that Huxley, being a poet, wrote some sentences which read like a piece of poetry.
The light was frozen, dead, a ghost.
High spurts the fountain; fierce and foamy the wild jet.
Huxley’s words were chosen to depict a happier yet unsettling world. If the reader wasn’t aware of life outside of World State, they would never know what a nightmare they lived in.
In contrast, Orwell’s writing was effortless, sinister and powerful. He allowed his words to show a glimpse of hope only when necessary. In my opinion, it was definitely better than Huxley’s:
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.
Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.
But once again, if the reader never knew about life before Big Brother, they would accept the world without hesitation.
Both worlds forbade people from falling in love with one another. Almost all dystopian novels follow a similar outline.
Love, although an abstract emotion, has the ability to disrupt one’s life. So, it makes sense for totalitarian governments to be scared of love. To be scared of the longing of love as well as the promises made to break any rules for love.
Stability vs Hatred
Huxley’s World State focused on stability — if humans are content with their life, the economy will flourish. Rightfully so, problems arise when people realize they deserve a better life. When they realize they deserve happiness, along with a financially stable life.
But the concept only makes sense if you stay away from the how’s and why’s. How else would you justify creating a drug-addicted society, where children are born through unnatural means, and forced to love their lives by brainwashing them. This is why, our sympathies lie with the savage, John, when he is unable to talk sense into anyone living in the state. In the end, he has no option but to kill himself.
Orwell’s Oceania focused on hatred — if humans are able to take out their rage on a specific individual/group, they will be controlled. Here, nobody cares about the economy. The survival of Oceania, along with the other two states, relies on a broken world.
The outside world is known to be so terrible that people would rather love Big Brother. They would rather give up their privacy and happiness, then fight back. Orwell makes us root for Winston and then shows us his chilling transition from hatred to love. He is broken down slowly, and so are we.
Thus, both the worlds rely heavily on two extremes: happiness and hatred.
Controlling the Mindset
In 1984, the concepts of cognitive dissonance ‘doublethink’ and Newspeak were brilliant. No one really understands the importance of language until they are told that they have the freedom to think as long as they have a medium to express it in. To communicate even with oneself, one needs language. Which is why, when you get rid of the freedom provided by language, you control the way people think.
Another interesting concept was the norm of rewriting history while making sure no one bats an eye. Thus, Big Brother made sure his people bore similarities to robots rather than humans. Unlike Huxley’s world, where offenders were sent to an island as a punishment, Big Brother continued to torture his people until the day they died.
In Brave New World, artificial wombs and conditioning were used to force people to accept their lifestyle. Soma was used to help them overcome their struggles and depression. These people weren’t controlled by the Thought Police, but they still had no thoughts of their own.
I do believe the world nowadays bears more resemblance to the World State. People all over the world are distracted from the bigger issues in life by mere distractions such as reality shows and viral challenges.
The most interesting part of these books is that you can analyze them a hundred times and still come up with different explanations.
Our future generations will read these books because they will always remain relevant — this is the beauty of 1984 and Brave New World.
Before I conclude, let me share a few questions I wrote for our book club meeting:
- Which novel do you prefer? Orwell’s or Huxley’s?
- Which world would you rather live in, Oceania or World State?
- How accurate were Orwell’s & Huxley’s version of the future when you look at the world now?
- If everyone is happy with their lives in Brave New World, then what exactly is the problem?
- Do you think 1984’s Appendix proves that somewhere in the future, the world was ‘saved’?
- What do you think Winston’s dreams meant?
- What did you think about the Reservation? Were their lives truly better than people living in the World State?
- What are some of the similarities in the novels?
- What influenced Orwell & Huxley to write these novels, and in what ways do they introduce these ideas into the story?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!