1984

Brave New World comparisons

In October 1949, after reading Nineteen Eighty-Four, Huxley sent a letter to Orwell in which he argued that it would be more efficient for rulers to stay in power by the softer touch by allowing citizens to seek pleasure to control them rather than use brute force. He wrote,

Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World.

...

Within the next generation I believe that the world's rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.[112]

In the decades since the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four, there have been numerous comparisons to Huxley's Brave New World, which had been published 17 years earlier, in 1932.[113][114][115][116] They are both predictions of societies dominated by a central government and are both based on extensions of the trends of their times. However, members of the ruling class of Nineteen Eighty-Four use brutal force, torture and mind control to keep individuals in line, while rulers in Brave New World keep the citizens in line by addictive drugs and pleasurable distractions. Regarding censorship, in Nineteen Eighty-Four the government tightly controls information to keep the population in line, but in Huxley's world, so much information is published that readers do not know which information is relevant, and what can be disregarded.

Elements of both novels can be seen in modern-day societies, with Huxley's vision being more dominant in the West and Orwell's vision more prevalent with dictators. including those in communist countries, as is pointed out in essays that compare the two novels, including Huxley's own Brave New World Revisited.[117][118][119][105]

Mary Wendworth noted that "In both Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World, dissidents get to have a long and intensive talk with a senior representative of the regime, who is completely frank and candid in explaining how the system came about and how and why it does what it does (by the way, dissidents in real-life tyrannical regimes rarely get to meet such a person). The comparison is very instructive. Orwell's Comrade O'Brien explains the workings of the regime in between subjecting Winston Smith to very thorough physical and mental torture, with the stated purpose of totally breaking him, driving all "criminal thoughts" out of his head - after which he would be summarily executed and "vaporized", all evidence that he ever existed completely destroyed. Conversely, Huxley's Mustafa Mond is a perfect host, urbane and genial to his dissident "guests", laughing indulgently at their futile antics and informing them that they are to be exiled to an island - which is in fact no punishment but a reward, as on an island they would be in the congenial company of fellow dissidents and creative thinkers. They would be free, to their heart's content, to compose subversive poetry (which people in the outside world would never read - and if they did, they would find it incomprehensible anyway). Plainly, the rulers of Orwell's Oceania feel threatened by dissent, and are constantly stomping on it. The rulers of Huxley's World State feel serenely secure. (...) O'Brien's subjects are terribly terrorized. If ever they overcame their fear and united, they might rebel. Mond's subjects are so thoroughly conditioned that they can comprehend no reason to rebel. (...) If I found O'Brien and Mond sitting side by side in a room and I had a gun with one bullet only, I would shoot Mond. He is, by far, the more dangerous of the two" [120]

Comparisons with other dystopian novels like The Handmaid's Tale, Virtual Light, The Private Eye and The Children of Men have also been drawn.[121][122]


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