By Cristina Carvajal

In his arguably greatest novel, Brave New World, British writer Aldous Huxley imagined a dystopian society where people traded in philosophy, art, and beauty for an ultimately false sense of stability. Published in 1932, the novel is ranked at number 5 on The Modern Library’s list of 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 2003, Robert McCrum included Brave New World on his list of the ‘top 100 greatest novels of all time.’

Huxley wrote, “Books can be like X-rays if you use them properly - they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” It’s not surprising, therefore, that a central character in the novel bans books because it leads people to feel unsatisfied, which ultimately leads to a decrease in productivity. “Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning,” Mustafá Mond says, “truth and beauty can’t.”

However, A Brave New World demonstrates that the lack of satisfaction experienced by those touched by a work of art is what truly provides solace and consolation in the midst of the uncertainty of our shared experience. The main character in the novel finds a friend and a guide in Shakespeare, even after experiencing extreme pain and alienation from his peers. By contrasting his main character’s experience with such a sublime body of work as Shakespeare, Huxley effectively demonstrates that art ennobles and lifts us above mere satisfaction and disgust, transporting us into a state where we can explore the depths of our humanity in all of its beauty and terror.

Therefore, we must never let passivity overtake us and take the beauty of Huxley’s Brave New World as a reminder. We must never let the stresses of our day to day lives make us forget the importance of experiencing our human nature in its entirety: take a book off the shelf, even if it isn’t the weekend yet. Happy reading!