The Philosophies Brave New World and Anthem
The books Brave New World by Aldus Huxley and Anthem by Ayn Rand are both valuable twentieth-century contributions to literature. Both books explore the presence of natural law in man and propose a warning for what could happen when man's sense of right and wrong is taken from him. In this essay, I hope to show how these seemingly unrelated novels both expound upon a single, very profound, idea.
Before launching into the implications of these two novels, I believe a summary of the general human experience in each of the two societies is necessary. Brave New World illustrates a society in which science has been elevated to a god-like position. In this novel, human thoughts and actions are controlled by conditioning, which in turn is controlled by a select few members of the dominant caste. Depending on the caste they are bred for, individuals in Brave New World are developed differently. All humans are created in a laboratory and higher caste individuals are allowed to develop relatively free from any mutation. Lower caste citizens, however, are created in mass quantity and are conditioned even as fetuses to enjoy hard labor. After being born, a process referred to in the novel as decanting, children are raised in group homes. From infancy through adolescence, children are conditioned into their society's worldview: "Everyone belongs to everyone else." They are carefully conditioned to accept and reject things based on the society's best interests. While citizens in this world believe they have complete freedom, they are in reality unable to behave in any way other than how they have been conditioned. They date, but monogamy is out of the question. To grow old is obscene, spending time alone is wrong, and conceiving one's own child is absolutely ludicrous. Soma is the drug of choice and is readily available. Solidarity services are required for each citizen to help keep conditioning in tact. With all the scientific preservation of the body, it reaches sixty in near perfect condition, but then rapidly deteriorates.
In contrast, Anthem is a society that has almost completely rejected science. It too is set in a futuristic time, but one that has regressed significantly. Believing science was evil, the controllers banished it and when the novel begins the candle is still a new invention. In this nation, breeding takes place once a year and children conceived are raised in group homes with codes instead of names. Students enter school and are discouraged from learning too much or being too inquisitive. Citizens in Anthem are forbidden to speak personal pronouns and to do so is a crime punishable by death. At fifteen, all students are assigned randomly to a job where they will work until they turn forty. At forty years old, the controllers send them to live in the Home of the Useless. After a full day of work, citizens all attend a social council meeting...