Orwell’s “1984” and Huxley’s “Brave New World”
Two of the most influential novels in the world of dystopian literature, “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley and “1984” by George Orwell, are informative for the analysis of present-day society’s trends. They effectively reflect on the motivation of the governments in introducing policies contrasted by people’s ideas of appropriateness, contradicting these initiatives. This provision is mainly attributed to indirect methods of exercising control over the population’s spending habits to form lasting patterns. In addition, the opposing views are applied to the way essential information is processed and delivered to citizens. More specifically, unauthorized access to it is critical for diminishing trust between individuals and authorities. All these aspects are thoroughly discussed in the examined novels, and this fact makes them invaluable for considering the link between their events and their importance to the world today. Hence, the relevance of Orwell’s and Huxley’s works for present-day society is determined by several similarities in economic trends, relationships between people and the government, and access to information controlled by the latter.
Economic and Financial Behaviors
The first aspect under examination is the economic and financial behaviors of citizens all over the world, and this issue is described in the novels under the pretense of eliminating poverty and improving living standards. Meanwhile, in reality, the emphasis on the seeming unacceptability of exploitation of people conceals the idea of their lack of freedom as they are mainly guided by governmental policies. For instance, in “1984,” Orwell writes that the actual goal of official initiatives in this respect is to “use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living” (194). Currently, this focus is applied to the way individuals make purchasing decisions under the influence of social media rather than the consideration of one’s needs (Biancotti and Ciocca). By doing so, they waste finances improperly and do not improve their lives by owning more items. From this perspective, Orwell’s claim of the common good explains the roots of modern consumerism to some extent.
This idea is also supported by Huxley, who claims the presence of a connection between all participants in economic processes within a country. He states that “everyone works for everyone else” and “we can’t do without anyone,” thereby implying the impossibility of existing without contemporary organizations and authorities regulating their interactions (Huxley 52). In this case, financial markets are readjusted in such a way that all of their components are profitable. Thus, from this point of view, the tendency of young people to save their money and invest it properly, whereas older generations were more oriented toward the acquisition of goods (Biancotti and Ciocca). In this way, one can conclude that Orwell’s idea of the lack of significant improvements in people’s living conditions is complemented by Huxley’s descriptions of prioritizing the needs of businesses and authorities rather than individuals.
Individuals vs. Society
The second consideration attributed to the novels of Orwell and Huxley and supporting their relevance to the contemporary world is the lasting conflict between individuals and society. As it was mentioned above, their varying economic needs determine the presence of opposition, which relates not only to money but also to other essential spheres of human life. As follows from the article written by Schenkkan and Cook, one of the most convincing examples of the suppression of people is the situation in China. The authors claim that this threat is critical not only for “political and religious exiles” but also for international cooperation since this practice is supported by other governments (Schenkkan and Cook). In Huxley’s novel, it is referred to by comparing people to “drops within the Social River”, thereby diminishing their significance as separate elements (56). Since this idea is central to this literary work and is present in the modern world, the link between them is evident.
Similarly, Orwell describes the main condition for maintaining an appropriate balance between individuals and society, which is the former’s unawareness of their options and, therefore, the impossibility of acting upon them. When discussing cultural integrity in the novel “1984,” he claims that “no contact with foreigners except to a limited extent with war prisoners and colored slaves” contributes to everyone’s alleged well-being in the long run (202). In the context of individualism versus collectivism, it means that the existing policies of the Chinese government intended for limiting the information available to citizens are similar to conquering new territories while separating their nations (Schenkkan and Cook). Since Huxley’s argument for the lack of influence, one has on society, and Orwell’s idea of imposing restrictions correlate with the specified challenge, these novels effectively reflect this aspect of the modern world.
The examined opposition of society and individuals also serves as the basis for information control exercised by the governments, and in the works of Orwell and Huxley, it takes the form of limiting freedom of expression. According to the former author, political language is characterized by the prevalence of “telescoped words and phrases,” and this statement implies a careful approach of country leaders to what information is delivered to citizens (Orwell 304). This phenomenon can be seen in the contemporary conflicts between China and the United States of America, triggered by the former’s citizens openly speaking about their problems abroad and their relatives punished for it (Schenkkan and Cook). Even though similar decisions are against fundamental human rights, they are still widespread. In this respect, Orwell’s narrative is no different from the current trends related to the way individuals express themselves and inform others of the challenges they face on the way to happiness.
In turn, Huxley’s novel demonstrates another perspective on information controlled by the authorities. In this piece, he writes that “there’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering”, and thereby implies that drugs are a solution (158). The symbolic meaning of this statement is the role of physical or mental distractions in the process of exchanging data and forming opinions on societal events, emphasized by researchers (Watson). In this situation, “unwritten or informal sets of beliefs or policies that dictate how we interact with one another” are subject to the influence of the government (Watson). In this way, Orwell’s claim of the existence of a mechanism for selecting the approach for informing the population for promoting specific sentiment is aligned with Huxley’s focus on the methods for shaping mindsets. Since present-day political leaders heavily rely on these two provisions, it is reasonable to suggest that there is an apparent intersection of instruments of control and information discussed in the novels.
The final idea, discussed by Orwell and Huxley concerning the modern world, is data leaks affect society in general, and it complements the previously analyzed issue. According to Watts, online government surveillance is a phenomenon that is not regulated by the considerations of human rights and other restricting legal frameworks. It is frequently laid based on popular products, such as computer games, and presents an alarming trend, leading to increased people’s concerns (Watts). In this respect, the challenge is connected not to the fact that all information can be accessed by authorities but to the way they would possibly use it against citizens. For example, taking data from Facebook accounts to “sway voters with personalized political advertisements,” playing the video game is one occasion of this nature (Watts). Even though this approach seems completely inappropriate and unethical, nothing can stop the authorities from resorting to this measure for their particular goals.
The support for this tendency can be found in both novels under consideration. Thus, in Orwell’s piece, it is explicitly stated that people “until they become conscious, they will never rebel,” whereas this outcome might be deliberately caused by the government (73). To make individuals join different movements for or against political actors, it is enough to affect their perceptions by adopting the above methods. In turn, in Huxley’s narrative, it is also mentioned that control over people can be exercised through information as “one believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them” (157). Hence, intentionally leaking data creates an impression of their credibility and makes people follow the government’s intentions.
In conclusion, the relevance of “Brave New World” and “1984” can be determined by several factors affecting citizens’ views and choices. First, as was written in both novels, individuals are frequently misled by economic tendencies artificially formed under the influence of the governments. In this case, their efforts to become wealthy are improper, and the presence of clear trends in financial behaviors among different generations confirms this stance. Second, the emphasis on the significance of society over that of individuals, discussed by Orwell and Huxley, is supported by Chinese policies. Third, the careful selection of phrases by politicians included in the two novels is currently manifested in informal beliefs shaped by the authorities. Fourth, the intentional nature of instilled views and data leakage is typical for both the books’ characters and contemporary people. Thus, the examined novels are not only similar in their messages but also effectively reflect the modern world’s challenges.
Biancotti, Claudia, and Paolo Ciocca. “Financial Markets and Social Media: Lessons from Information Security.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2021.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2010.
Orwell, George. 1984. Signet Classics, 2010.
Schenkkan, Nate, and Sarah Cook. “A Global Campaign of Repression, Made in China.” The Diplomat, 2021.
Watson, Justin T. “The Individual vs Society.” Medium, 2020.
Watts, Rachel. “Hack, Spy, Swing an Election: Orwell Game Sums Up Life in a Tech Dystopia.” The Guardian, 2018.