Power and stability are both very important themes in both George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’. In both cases these themes are often presented as satirical commentaries of the societies in which the authors lived in. They are presented in both similar and very contrasting ways although often passing judgement on similar issues. There are often elements of both the novel’s societies with similar functions to maintain stability, yet these are often maintained by very different methods.
In both stories, the heads of society use their power to maintain a great deal of control over their constituents and ensure social stability. Not only actions are controlled but thoughts too. This produces two societies where individuality is rare, very difficult to establish and actually discouraged by the leading bodies. In ‘Brave New World’, the controlled seem to have very little awareness of the mental moulding they have undergone.
Although Bernard sees through this, and John the Savage is similarly horrified by the society, the use of free indirect discourse that Huxley employs enables us to see through the eyes of Lenina Crowne, Fanny Crowne and Henry Foster, models of the average World State citizen. Through their constant quoting of hypnopaedia slogans and strict beliefs we can see how they have been developed to have uniform minds. The scene with Bernard and Lenina in a helicopter above the ocean displays this well. Here we see Bernard displaying attitudes that our society would consider normal but Lenina finds very worrying and scary.
Bernard stops to hover and admire the view, telling Lenina it makes him feel more than “just a cell in the social body. ” A shocked Lenina replies with a hypnopaedic phrase: “Everyone works for everyone else. Even Epsilons are useful. ” Bernard actually finishes the sentence for her, highlighting his cynicism of the society and also how Lenina’s opinion has been controlled so much that it is easily predictable down to how she voices it. The conditioning of people works so well, in fact, that even though it is an obvious form of regulation, it is accepted as education rather than the enforcing of ideas.
When being given a tour of the Conditioning Centre, the young students are not in any way shocked by the electrocution of babies involved in Neo-Pavlovian conditioning. Control in ‘1984’ is also very much to do with the mind. However, the forms of control seem a lot more obvious in this world. This may be because we see the world through the eyes of an individual in another very uniform society, Winston Smith. Winston’s singularity is suppressed through the fear of death and torture, under the eye of constant surveillance in the telescreens.
According to Winston, even the eyes of posters appear to follow him wherever he goes, therefore we assume that control, especially through surveillance is obvious. Therefore the methods of control in the novel, that clearly affect Winston, are very clear to us. However, ignorant characters like Parsons and intellectuals such as Syme seem to totally overlook or ignore the Party’s totalitarian system. Syme would do this through the act of doublethink, with the Party influencing his whole way of thinking. This is similar to how hypnopaedia is used in ‘Brave New World’.
The use, in ‘1984’, of children as spies and the use of Neo-Pavlovian conditioning in ‘Brave New World’ are both demonstrative of the control over children in both novels. This is a point of satire as it shows both authors warning us about the potential amount of control governments can have over the young and vulnerable. Hence, power is employed to maintain control, which is used to maintain power and stability. In both novels, it is not only individuality that is suppressed. Controlling bodies in both societies have in fact placed a limitation on knowledge.
Ignorance is also encouraged or even enforced to create a stability of mind and therefore a general stability is also built. Characters such as that of Parsons and Lenina are created, where there is a full acceptance of, and trust in, the regimes. Soma contributes to this objective very successfully in ‘Brave New World’, alongside hypnopaedia. People of the World State are conditioned to believe that: “A gramme in time saves nine” and “A gramme is better than a damn. ” Huxley describes this to us, sarcastically, as a “bright treasure of sleep-taught wisdom”.
Here we can see that people have been fooled into seeing the artificial high given to them by soma as true happiness. Therefore, they have become emotionally blank, with the only escape from anything out of the ordinary being a trip of false happiness. This dependence of the whole society on soma creates a false pretence of absolute satisfaction throughout the world, which, as if it were true, creates a fully stable society. Similarly, doublethink serves as a measure in ‘1984’, through which emotional obscurity, which is a necessity in this totalitarian society, can be reached.
Doublethink is a form of forced ignorance, where the mind must be able to believe two contradicting facts at the same time. In fact, doublethink can be linked as an almost direct parallel to soma. In both cases, the people find them absolute requirements for survival and they both serve the same function for the governments; ignorance, regularity and stability. Both societies recognise the need for contentment to ensure a stable environment. By limiting the civilians’ knowledge of the past, this is recognised by both civilisations, leaving no comparisons that would make them look bad.
In ‘Brave New World’, people are taught that “History is bunk”. The saying is actually described as “inspired and beautiful” by the World Controller, Mustapha Mond. Even when the few, such as Mond, who have knowledge of the past, refer to it, they do so with disgust in a manner to turn others away from trying to investigate further. It easily possible that they would find individuality, monogamy, family and the lack of soma ridiculous and would look on our culture as critically as Huxley appears to look on theirs.
However, they are given no chance to compare the times, and therefore remain convinced that the age in which they live is far superior. Hence they are content with their lives. This acceptance of their environment induces further stability. ‘1984’ exhibits the same ideas, although historic sources are available to the civilians of Oceania. In this case, history is altered to create a similar effect. The Party wants to claim all of mankind’s successes and discredit anything else as proof of the world’s problems in pre-Party days:
“In the late ‘fifties, it was only the helicopter that the Party claimed to have invented; a dozen years later, when Julia was at school, it was already claiming the aeroplane” The Party wants its members to ‘love’ and appreciate it and Big Brother in order to maintain stability; this alteration of the past is one of the many ways they achieve this. The Party not only controls and adjusts past events from times before the regime but it does so to historical facts from the previous day. Everyday events are affected in this way to improve peoples’ perception of Big Brother’s intelligence and to keep up their confidence in him.