Brave New World Setting
The setting of Brave New World plays a vital role in the development of the novel’s characters and plot. The fact that the story is set far in the future allows Aldous Huxley to create a whole new society where he can explore and experiment with many of the cultural issues that were prevalent when he wrote the book in the 1930’s. At that time many things were changing quickly and no one knew if they would be for better or for worse. Huxley thought they would be for the worse and created characters and a storyline that depended entirely on an imagined future.
There are many examples of characters shaped by the novel’s futuristic setting. Perhaps the best example is the hero of the story, John the Savage. In a way the Savage’s role is to draw the reader into the strange world Huxley has created—as the Savage is much closer to our way of life than many of the futuristic characters. He has grown up in a reservation where the “modern” world has not influenced the way of life. As such, he provides the perfect foil to the futuristic characters: he is stranded in the future and made strange by it. At home on the reservation, he is an ordinary person, but outside of it he becomes a curiosity, someone opposed philosophically and even physically to the choices people in the future have made. As an individual in a culture that categorizes people according to their brains and looks, and teaches them en masse to be good members of their class, the Savage is an individual and tries to maintain his individuality against an onslaught. The tragic final result shows how is unable to accept his role in this future. He is shaped and misshapen by the setting.
The entire storyline revolves around this futuristic setting. It is easy to imagine Aldous Huxley being very concerned about the commercialization of the world in the 1930’s, and the fakeness of advertising, anaesthetization of real life, and the end of authenticity. These concerns form the centre of the story he brilliantly weaves in Brave New World. He felt that popular culture and the pursuit of pleasure were ruining people and their individuality. This is expressed partly through the character and fate of John Savage, but also in many of the books events. The plotline about Bernard Marx is similar in some respects and again, by his being different illustrates how much sameness there in the futuristic setting. He is physically inferior to the rest of his caste, but has made a virtue of his difference, and will not take soma, saying he would “rather be himself, sad, than another person, happy.” This is a key theme of the book, and illustrated perfectly by Huxley’s choice of setting: life has peaks and valleys, and if you cancel out either of them you have just a neutral numbness, which is what many of the characters actively seek out in the form of soma.
There are many more examples I could provide to make the argument that Brave New World’s setting is important in the development of the characters and plot, but these are a good start. By setting the novel in the future, Huxley is able to show us a horrible world, a culture that has destroyed authentic life and individuality—the things that make us special.