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Brave New World explores the classic conflict between the individual and society. Remember when your kindergarten teacher taught you about how everyone is unique? Well, forget that lesson today, because in this story, personal identity has been sacrificed for the sake of a common good, and the results are not very pretty. A form of biological reproduction produces certain types of humans in batches of 96 identical copies. A social "caste" structure separates the citizens into five groups, the result being that any given individual is little more than a faceless, color-coded member of a larger group. Certain characters in the novel grow uncomfortable with this idea, are downright disgusted by it, or for one reason or another find that they just don't fit the mold. They seek to understand their individuality through isolation, self-exploration, and of course, self-flagellation.
Questions About Identity
- Think about the 96 identical Bokanovsky twins (and yes, we know, "twin" isn't the right word, but don't look at us, look at Huxley). Is there any difference at all between, say, number 47 and number 62?
- How do Bernard, Helmholtz, and John each seek to define themselves? Do any of them succeed?
- All three of these men became aware of their individuality because they were somehow in isolation from the rest of their peers. What does solitude have to do with individuality?
- In "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" we discussed animal imagery in Brave New World, and the way that citizens have been dehumanized. But at the end of the day, are they more like people or animals?
Chew on This
Women in Brave New World are defined only by their function as sexual objects. This is the extent of every female's identity.
It is only by killing himself that John is able to maintain his identity as a human being instead of an animal.