Module C: Brave New World and the role of the Dissident (part 1)
‘People and Politics’ is an examination of the public elements which make up a society and how these are represented in literature. It is about understanding the power that individuals hold, as well as the power that the state (such as the nation or the government or the law) holds over us. In the case of Brave New World, Huxley’s exploration of where eugenics might take us in the future has him creating a detailed and systematic imaginary world. It is a world where life is without pain, fear of death or personal discontent, since there can be no misdirected ambition. It is the portrayal of a utopia, even though we read it as a dystopia. But life is not perfect in the Brave New World, and we know this through a writer’s most important creation, that of character. The first three chapters of the book are an orientation to the World State in the time of Our Ford 632, with a commentary by The Director to the compliant students taking a tour of the human production line. The presence of the authorial voice is not lost as a series of satirical comments emerge, but this is not enough for the reader to warm to those who inhabit the world. They have lost what makes them essentially human. It is not until the emergence of John Savage, born of a ‘mother', out of the filth of the Reservation with its mix of Christian, pagan and Indian ‘barbaric’ rituals that there is a semblance of life and ritual that we can identify with. Savage symbolizes one of the most important elements of political life: the role of the dissident. It is he who cannot conform, who thinks as an individual rather than a group, who rebels against the World State even though it makes him a subversive. “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy” he says, and “the right to grow old and ugly and incompetent” (215). Literary dissidents (which includes characters like John Proctor in The Crucible) perform an important role in understanding people and politics.