Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World

This week is the American Library Associations Banned Books Week, which is a celebration of our freedom to read. The Suvudu blog points out that Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World is one of the most challenged books in print. It's not surprising that some people find it disturbing:
Huxley’s 1931 novel remains a stark and at many times frightening vision of a future where “better living through science” has been taken a step or two too far. In Brave New World Huxley imagines his Utopian World State, a place where people live without the threat of violence, poverty, or hunger. And yet, everyone must consume chemicals to stave off depression, children are born in laboratories and trained to embrace societies caste system, and movies have been replaced with “feelies,” or movies that significantly stimulate the senses, and Henry Ford is revered as God. So, as you can see, all is not well. World State might glitter, but it isn’t gold.
The reasons given for banning the book are often because of its depiction of sex for reasons other than babymaking and the fictional future's godlessness and "negative activity", which suggests that they've missed the point. Huxley's future is not one where most of us would want to live - although I suppose the OMG ORGY might distract some teenagers from that point.

So what can you do to celebrate Banned Books Week? Why, read a banned book, of course. If Huxley isn't your cup of tea, why not pick up a copy of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, May Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, or Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass and celebrate our freedom to read all sorts of books.

Check to see whether there are Banned Books Week events in your area.

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4 comments:

Arvind Mishra said...

Brave new world is my all time favorite ! Though Huxley might have conceptualized an Utopian state in the novel but it turned out to be a sort of dystopia in many critiques assessment.When I first reviewed the book for a Hindi magazine about decades back I treated it as an idle example of utopia.
Its really a classic work of sf.

Thomas said...

Strangely, "Brave New World" was required reading in my high school. What was banned, I found out when I tried to do a project on it, was "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," by Robert Heinlein.

The justification, they said, was that that book, as well as "Stranger in a Strange Land" would promote sexual misconduct and erode respect for authority.

I think the real difference might be that our school's administrators paid lip service to what is regarded by elite critics as great literature while casually disregarding everything else.

Peggy said...

Arvind: I agree that it's a real classic. I first read it as a teenager and I don't think it caused me any problems. If I recall correctly, I even did a book report on it, and my Catholic high school didn't have any problem with that.

Thomas: I think "Moon is a Harsh Mistress" would be much more "dangerous" in that sense than "Brave New World". At least when I read it, I had me really pulling for the Loonies as they broke away from Earth.

You are probably right about the distinction made between books considered "great lit" and those considered merely entertainment. I think that's a bit of a shame, since some great lit is deadly dull and can put kids off reading all together. My ideal English course would have a mixture of required literary works and books selected by the kids themselves.

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