Table of Contents
2.Love and Sex in our Society
3.Usage of Love and Sex
3.1 Brave New World
3.2 Nineteen Eighty-Four
“Love makes the world go ‘round.”1
The famous saying that was used in various song lyrics, perfectly sums up how our society thinks about one of the most unique feelings in the world. Love is the moving power that makes us do things and cross our own borders: “Liebe ist eine aktive Kraft im Menschen, die auf Vereinigung mit einem anderen Menschen drängt.” (Siebel 152) Dystopian novels tend to see this the other way around. Their societies would probably argue that love is what makes the world crash. They would consider it a threat to their country’s stability.
Ever since Thomas More’s “Utopia” love and sex have been a part of dystopian novels. In Thomas More’s times his depictions were ground breaking. Women were not allowed to marry until they were 18. In the past this was highly unusual, since most women married at the age of around 14. Furthermore divorce is forbidden, which, at this point, mirrors the time More lived in. This clearly influenced all the following writers of dystopian novels. They imagine a world that is negatively silhouetted against their own world. And since love is a big part of every society it is also a big part in every dystopian society.
When looking for “the most famous dystopian novels” on Google, two that are immediately suggested are Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. Both have one thing in common: their rather negative and, for us, rather unusual attitude towards love, relationships and sex.
This term paper is supposed to deal with how love and sex are depicted in Brave New World and 1984, and if there are any similarities between them. Furthermore we will take a brief look at differences and similarities to love and sex in our society. What is the attitude towards marriage these days? And what is the role of love in all of that? After this we will then hopefully be able to identify what love and sex in dystopian fiction means.
2. Love and Sex in our Society
“What is this thing called love?“2
Since this term paper aims to take a closer look on how love and sex are depicted and used in Brave New World and 1984, it might be useful to gain an understanding of how these things are valued in our society today.
When asking the Oxford English Dictionary about the word “love” it defines it as “A feeling or disposition of deep affection or fondness for someone, typically arising from a recognition of attractive qualities, from natural affinity, or from sympathy and manifesting itself in concern for the other's welfare and pleasure in his or her presence.“ From the biological view loving and sexuality are primarily supposed to secure the existence of the human race: “Die mit der Sexualität verbundene Erregung und Begeisterung gewinnt angesichts dieser Aufgabe den Zweck einer Absicherung.” (Meyer 214) Hence love is something that drags us towards another human being.
Nowadays about every second to third marriage ends in a divorce. In the last 40 years the risk for a divorce was even doubled (cf. Bodenmann 13). However, statistics showed that 80-90% of the population still marry at some point of their life or at least have one solid, intimate relationship (cf. Bodenmann 14). Bodenmann describes a happy relationship as something essential: “Eine feste, glückliche Partnerschaft wird in den meisten Untersuchungen als einer der wichtigsten Werte genannt, die für das Lebensglück nötig sind“ (20). So one could argue that love and relationships are permanent features of our lives, but apparently they do not last as long as they lasted in earlier times. A reason for that might be that the role of marriage has changed. Today most relationships and marriages fail because people hope to find the eternal happiness and fulfilment (cf. Bodenmann 20) - and are then probably disappointed by reality. Marriages and relationships are more than love, joy and happiness. There are three different components that stand for a working relationship today. Presented in a “Triangle of Love” one side contains closeness, warmth, and familiarity, the next one sexual desire and attraction and the third one the obligatory binding (cf. Voigt 20) Those are the aspects that, according to Jürgen Voigt, make up a good relationship: “Im Idealfall bilden die Bausteine ein gleichschenkliges Dreieck.” (Voigt: 20)
But not every relationship is the same. The sides of the triangle are usually not developed equally. Depending on how the sides are formed, there will be a unique relationship with an own sense of what is most important. There are six different forms that love can take: love for friends, erotic love, altruism, patriotism, humanity and love for god (cf. Siebel 187). Especially the love for friends, erotic love and patriotism will later on gain importance when talking about the novels. The love between friends relies on sameness. Friends usually have common interests and they are coequal. This kind of love has the purpose of a mutual reinforcement. According to Siebel a real friend cares about the other one as if it was about himself (187). In the form of the erotic love, on the other hand, both lovers usually have an equal status. They see each other as a complement of their own self (cf. Siebel 188). Different to what the term might promise, “erotic” love does not rely on sex. Erotic love can also be what one feels towards his or her family. Since the erotic love is not always lasting, it is often closely connected to suffering (Siebel 198 f). The patriotism is a form of social love. Basically that means that the citizen acknowledges and identifies with his or her homeland and is ready to support it in any way possible (cf. Siebel 192 f).
But if there is no love without suffering – why are most of us still longing for this feeling? Most lovers “build […] relationships on [their] own need to escape [their] aloneness and seperateness” (Forisha-Kovach: 111). Taking Maslow’s hierarchy of needs into consideration this is perfectly normal: The lowest level of the hierarchy contains the “psychological or ‘survival’ needs“ (Poduska 757); food, for example, is one of them. After this comes the need for safety and only then the love and belonging needs. Those three levels are what Maslow calls “deficit needs” (Poduska 757) - needs that want to reach a good equilibrium.
Fulfilling these is also an aim in the following kind of relationship: the “mingle”, the “mixed Single”, follows a trend in the 21st century (cf. Erdmann). Young people often feel these basic needs and want to fulfil them, but at the same time do not want the duties that come with a solid relationship. They often stay with one person for a longer time, enjoy the closeness, warmth, and familiarity and the sexual desire and attraction, but ignore the third side of the “Triangle of Love” – the obligatory binding. They never really decide on their relationship status. While previously a kiss meant that two people want to be in a relationship, today this is way more complicated. Most of the time a kiss does not mean anything.
This is something that would have never been socially acceptable in the 20th century. Marriage was still highly valued and divorce rates were a lot lower than in our times (cf. Bodenmann 13). In the late 20th century marriage still had four different purposes: producing descendants, breeding them, supporting each other and satisfying sexual instincts. The catholic marriage model saw production and breeding of descendants as the only reason for couples to get married (cf Siebel 211). The role of marriage has clearly (and luckily) changed. Today it is not about marriage itself, but about the strong relationship to another person in particular (cf. Bodenmann 20).
To sum up, even in the 21st century it is still not possible to scientifically prove what love is. We do know, how human beings come to life, but at the same time, cannot explain why we feel the way we do. Why can we feel love or hatred? Where does our personality come from? (cf. Bodenmann 30)
Love is a mystery that makes our life worth living – but are the dystopians agreeing with this statement?
3. Usage of Love and Sex
After taking a closer look on how love and relationships work in our society, one is now able to look into the dystopian novels in contrast. How are love and sex depicted here?
3.1 Brave New World
“Everyone belongs to everyone else.“3
This chapter will be divided up into two important fields. The first thing that needs to be taken care of is how love life and reproduction are depicted. This will also contain an explanation of some concepts in the Brave New World that are particularly interesting in the context of this paper and also very controversial in general. The second field will contain a brief analysis of three main characters concerning their sexual and emotional behaviour.
Since the analysis will only concentrate on some scenes and aspects of the book, it is important to gain a very brief overview of the novel’s content. Three words every reader of Brave New World should know are: “Community, Identity, Stability“ (Huxley 1); the World State’s motto. Especially stability is something that will be important in the course of this paper. The story is set in futuristic London in a time after a nine-year-war. The society is divided up into castes: Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons. The people that belong to these castes are no longer born, but artificially produced in a factory and conditioned by mind controlling. But what is the most important aspect for this term paper is that there is nothing that has anything to do with the kind of love that we know.
Before getting to the core of what love and sex mean in Brave New World, there is one thing to mention: Aldous Huxley, who was born in Surrey, England, in 1894 (cf. Bradshaw), had a special attitude towards love. In his essay on Aldous Huxley’s Animadversions upon Sexual Love Milton Birnbaum wrote: “Aldous Huxley has seldom found sexual love to be either worthy of divine worship or mysterious. […] With the exception of several artificially delineated “happy” marriages in Island, not a single love affair in all of Huxley’s novels is successfully and satisfyingly consummated; the marital and extramarital relationships all lead to pain or frustration” (285). This gives us a hint of why Huxley might have depicted some aspects the way he did.
There are a few controversial concepts in the Brave New World. One place in which a lot of these things happen is the “Hatchery and Conditioning Centre” (Huxley 1). The centre replaces what most of us could not imagine living without - a family. Dozens of identical embryos are produced in bottles on a conveyor belt. They call it the “Bokanovsky’s Process” (Huxley 3), making “eight to ninety-six” (Huxley 3) eggs out of one original egg. The way in which the embryos are treated in their bottles in the Hatchery determines to which castes they will belong. This process is only used for the lower castes. The Alphas and Betas are, in some way, individuals. At least they do not have up to 189 identical brothers and sisters (cf. Huxley 6).
The bottle within which the embryos grow replaces the body of a woman, offering the perfect conditions. No need for a real mother. Furthermore the centre undertakes all the basic tasks of a family: raising, educating and feeding the children.
But the people of the Brave New World would never compare their beloved centre to a family. To them the words “parent”, “mother”, “father” and “born” are something unpleasant (“In brief […] the parents were the father and the mother. […] These […] are unpleasant facts; I know it. But, then, most historical facts are unpleasant.” Huxley 19). At one point Mustapha Mond wants the students to overthink “[…] what ‘living with one’s family meant” (Huxley 30). To him family and home meant “No air, no space; an understerilized prison; darkness, disease, and smells.” (Huxley 31) To us, “home” is a rather positive connoted word. The house or the city where we live is supposed to feel like home. We can even be homesick when we feel like we do not belong. To Mustapha Mond, on the other hand, home is like a prison. He claims that, after love and families have been abandoned, there is way more freedom in the Brave New World. Parts of his claim are right. Even our society has to make this choice. According to Caroline Meline “You can have one or the other but not both; you can have either love and captivity, or freedom and loneliness, and you will experience loss either way” (349). But because they took the choice from the people to decide whether they want freedom without love, the freedom is faked. Either way, if we consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs the feeling of love and belonging are a part of the most basic needs a human being has.
Most of the women in the World State got sterilized as embryos; the rest is producing eggs for this procedure, but is still using contraception, since motherhood has been abandoned in this dystopian society. Often those women are wearing a “Malthusian Belt” – a belt “bulging with the regulation supply of contraceptives” (Huxley 43). In the early 20th century the scientist Ludwig Haberlandt was the first one to notice the possibility of an oral, hormonal form of contraception – today’s contraceptive pill (cf. Frobenius). Since Brave New World was published in 1932 Huxley probably heard about that by then and used this here. Concerning the Pill, Huxley really did predict the future. In the world he imagined, most of the women were sterilized or had to take contraceptive pills. Maybe women do not have to take contraception in our society, but most of them do. In 2012 16% of women from the United States between 15 and 44 years used the Pill (cf. guttmacher.org). In Germany these numbers are even higher: 72% of women between 20 and 29 years took the pill for contraception (cf. Ärzte Zeitung). The difference here is: our society has a choice, the people of the Brave New World, on the other hand, cannot choose.
Everything has an industrial connotation. This is also clarified when one of the ten world controllers, Mustapha Mond, talks to a group of students about history. He tells them, how the world began to be overpopulated and how people were starving. From the story he concludes: “Wheels must turn steadily, but cannot turn untended. There must be men to tend them, men as steady as the wheels upon their axles, sane men, obedient men, stable in contentment.” (Huxley 36) Those carefully chosen words ought to make clear that the world is an industry that needs to be tamed. Controlling the world’s population brings stability. Despite that those fertilized eggs are rather a neatly produced product than actual human beings, it is something that is necessary for the World State’s stability.
Everything that is done in the Brave New World has the purpose of fulfilling the state’s motto: Community, Identity, Stability. Community is achieved from the beginning of the dystopians lives. They are “decanted” and raised in the hatchery in a form of community. They are taught, “everyone belongs to everyone else.” (Huxley 34) This hypnopaedic proverb is what they live up to for the rest of their lives. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “Identity” as “The quality or condition of being the same in substance, composition, nature, properties, or in particular qualities under consideration; absolute or essential sameness“. This is achieved through the caste system – communities that can identify themselves as Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas or Epsilons. The state’s motto then climaxes in the word Stability. To the world state a world without family, without love and without individuality is supposed to secure stability. According to the controller, the world was all about love. He always repeats “my love, my baby” (Huxley 35) to make clear what life was like before the Brave New World. The humans back then had no choice, but to be strong and brave for the people they love: “And feeling strongly […], how could they be stable?” (Huxley 35) Through constant repetition the controller makes the importance really clear: “Stability. The primal and the ultimate need. Stability.” (Huxley 36)
1 Madonna. Love makes the world go round. "Love makes the world go round" True Blue. CD. Sire/Warner Brs. 1986. Web. 18 October 2015.http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/madonna/lovemakestheworldgoround.html
2 Suter, Ronald. Sex, Love, And Friendship. Adrianne McAvoy. New York: Rodopi, 2011. Print.19.
3 Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. London: Vintage, 2004. 34.