Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, published in 1932, is a dystopian novel set six hundred years in the future. The novel envisions a world that, in its quest for social stability and peace, has created a society devoid of emotion, love, beauty, and true relationships.
Huxley's novel is chiefly a critique of the socialist policies that states had begun to advocate in the early twentieth century. Huxley, by 1932, had observed the increasing tendency of Western government to intrude upon people's lives. This intrusion, he believed, limited the expression of freedom and beauty that is integral to the human character. Through Brave New World and his other writings, he suggested that beauty is a result of pain and that society's desire to eliminate pain limits society's ability to thrive culturally and emotionally. Many readers initially found this difficult to accept, living as they did in the aftermath of World War I, when a lack of societal control had caused a war that inflicted great pain and death on an entire continent.
The novel also comments on humanity's indiscriminate belief in progress and science. Huxley had himself desired a scientific career before the near blindness that he suffered during childhood kept him from such pursuits. The Western world, Huxley believed, placed too much emphasis on scientific progress at the expense of a love for beauty and art. His novel attempts to show how such science, when taken too far, can limit the flourishing of human thought. In World War I, humanity had seen the great destruction that technology such as bombs, planes, and machine guns could cause. Huxley believed that the possibility for such destruction did not only belong to weapons of war but to other scientific advancements as well.
The reaction of society to the book ranged from acclaim to outrage. H.G. Wells, a famous writer of science fiction and dystopian literature, panned the book as alarmist. Other critics challenged Huxley's depictions of religion and ritual as well as his views of sexuality and drug use. The novel's stark depictions of sexuality and cruelty meant that it continues to incite controversy over whether or not it is an appropriate book for all ages and audiences. Nevertheless, as a social critique, Brave New World takes credit with Orwell's 1984 for advancing a new genre of literature that fuses science fiction, political allegory, and literary ambition.