Of all questions that Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (BNW) arises, I have chosen to analyse the role of memories and past within the society described. This will lead to the questions of what the qualities of adulthood really are, and why the character of Bernard Marx doesn’t feel like an adult.
These themes are most present in chapter 6, but to present the whole topic, I will also quote from other chapters.
First of all, I will need to quickly introduce to you the perception of character and individuality in BNW. One quote summarises it all: “‘Characters remain constant throughout a whole lifetime’”,(p.80, ll. 1,2). But how is this character achieved in the first place, if there’s no development? – Only through conditioning! The character is made! It’s artificial, yet we cannot deny that it’s there.
Therefore the question should rather be: Can a character that doesn’t evolve be real? Aren’t development or simply change it’s most important aspects?
We would immediately know, what to answer, but to the inhabitants of Brave New World, even the question must seem ridiculous, because they do not celebrate individuality.
Even the Alphas only have a limited amount of free will and they do not differ much from each other, neither in appearance, nor in personality. This is because their aims are all alike. As the examples of Bernard and Helmholtz show (who are both considered exceptional individuals), individuality is a mere nuisance to those living in BNW. This may be due to the fact that character has no influence on life whatsoever; career and social activities are imposed on them and there is no room for choice according to one’s likings. Also, to others, character doesn’t matter, only the ability to consume happiness is of importance.
The individualist part of the human nature is completely denied as the following quote shows: “[…] for doing things in private. Which meant, in practice, not doing things at all.”, (p.116, ll.5f).
In paragraph two of chapter six we learn that talking about the remote past is objectionable in BNW.
Memories are one of the most important aspects of personality. It doesn’t develop all of a sudden, nor has it always been there, ready for us to use. Obviously it needs have a past and to evolve continually. If this is so, we have all the more reason to say that the Brave New Worldians don’t live the life of adults, because they are deprived of its final stage: old age. Instead, the conditioning can be seen as a very basic substitute for personality, which makes the person function in the simplest ways. For example it equips the BNWians with sentences to utter in almost every situation. In fact, it seems that all conversation among the civilized is but endless repetition. This becomes especially clear, when we listen to Lenina and Bernard in §2. For Bernard it is just impossible to explain his thoughts, because they are new to Lenina and the only way in which she can react to them is by completely blocking herself. This is of course a very frustrating situation, both for the characters and the reader, emphasized by the fact that the author employs dramatic irony in this scene.