Huxley’s Brave New World can be seen as a critique of the overenthusiastic embrace of new scientific discoveries. The first chapter reads like a list of stunning scientific achievements: human cloning, rapid maturation, and prenatal conditioning. However, the satirical tone of the chapter makes it clear that this technology-based society is not a utopia, but the exact opposite. Like George Orwell’s 1984, Brave New World depicts a dystopia: a world of anonymous and dehumanized people dominated by a government made overwhelmingly powerful by the use of technology.
The word utopia comes from Sir Thomas More’s novel Utopia (1516), and it is derived from Greek roots that could be translated to mean either “good place” or “no place.” Books that include descriptions of utopian societies were written long before More’s novel, however. Plato’s Republic is a prime example. Sometimes the societies described are meant to represent the perfect society, but sometimes utopias are created to satirize existing societies, or simply to speculate about what life might be like under different conditions. In the 1920s, just before Brave New World was written, a number of bitterly satirical novels were written to describe the horrors of a planned or totalitarian society. The societies they describe are called dystopias, places where things are badly awry. Either term, utopia or dystopia, could correctly be used to describe Brave New World.