Compare the ways in which Aldous Huxley in ‘Brave New World’ and Anthony Burgess in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ present control in society.
Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’, published in 1932, is a dystopian novel set in England in the year 2540 or, as it is referred to in the novel, 632 years ‘After Ford’. This relates to 632 years after Henry Ford successfully produced the ‘Model T’, which was the first car to be made by mass production methods such as conveyor-belt assembly, mirrored by the conveyor-belt methods of creating human life in Huxley’s dystopia. Huxley wrote ‘Brave New World’ in the years leading up to the second world war; it was his response to the widespread fear of Americanisation present in Europe. Huxley visited America between September 1925 and June 1926 and this visit made him pessimistic about the cultural future of Europe. He believed that ‘the future of America is the future of the world’ and the future he saw was one of material consumption. It is clear that the ‘World State’ in ‘Brave New World’ was Huxley’s satire on the global diffusion of the American way of life.
Anthony Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’, published in 1962, is a dystopian novel set in an early 21st century England which has suffered a terrible breakdown of law and order. Burgess’ novel captures the anti-mechanistic spirit of the 60’s culture and was targeted at the American psychologist B.F. Skinner who believed that his work on behaviour modification in animals could be applied to humans. Burgess felt that the work threatened the freedom of individual choice; he was also disturbed by a new behaviourist method of reforming criminals which is reflected greatly in the novel. Burgess’s underlying moral dilemma portrayed in the novel is, is it better for a man to be bad than be conditioned to be good? He conveys this in the novel through the prison Chaplain who says:
‘when a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.’
In Huxley’s dystopia, control is established straight away even before the dystopia’s citizens are born or, in the case of the novel, ‘hatched’ through biological engineering. The bottles, which move along a Fordian assembly line, have replaced the womb and each of the embryos are conditioned, through factors such as temperature, into a pre destined social role. The conditioning continues through infancy in the form of sleep teaching. Conditioning as a form of control is also used in ‘A Clockwork Orange’; Alex is conditioned with a combination of drugs which he believes are vitamins but are in fact used to make him feel nausea and through being shown violent films at the time he feels sick. Burgess targeted his novel at the founder of this type of operant conditioning B.F. Skinner. This control is different to Huxley’s as the control on Alex in Burgess’ novel is a physical control, his body is being conditioned to respond in a negative way to violence but his thoughts about violence have not changed as is stated in the novel by Dr Branon: