City Tech, Fall 2016

Persistent Ghosts

Aldous Huxley guides the readers of Brave New World to a grim conclusion. The final image is disheartening. A man who fights for freedom is left with only one option to attain it. From the bleak world Huxley has painted, it may be inferred that true freedom is a facetious concept. Its’ definition is paradoxical and liberty cannot be given nor attained.

True freedom is unattainable.  It almost escapes definition in its intangibility. John and Mond argue primarily not with their own words, but by quoting people long since deceased. Even in this small regard, they are not free. As the two argue about freedom, Mond proffers this repartee “But as time goes on, they, as all men, will find that independence was not made for man- that it is an unnatural state- will do for a while, but will not carry us on safely to the end…” (209) To Mond, independence is “unnatural,” it doesn’t exist. Furthermore, to Mond freedom would not entail completely autonomy, it would only entail a different master, God. Monds words are disconcerting, yet persuasive.  Hypothetically, what true freedom would entail, is frightening, it would unravel society.

Forcing freedom onto someone is a paradoxical act, futile even. It pains John to see people being rallied like cattle, it disgusts him and prompts him to act. John attempts to shake them out of their atrophy, he berates and yells “Don’t you want to be free and men? Don’t you even understand what manhood and freedom are?’ … ‘I’ll teach you; I’ll make you be free whether you want to or not.” (192) The desire for freedom has to come from their own volition, and it is not in their hearts. They react with violence; they fight for the drug that sedates them. Their loyalty to pleasure is near irreparable, they are forever slaves to it. True freedom is not real. Even after the being released, the ghosts of our desires, vices and addictions linger, whispering in our ears.

John is perpetually haunted by his memories; he contemplates freedom through death. John sequester himself to a lone lighthouse far from civilization to atone for his transgressions. Nonetheless, he feels deplorable for the small comforts granted by the ocean and distant skyline. Memories of his ardor for Lenina drive him to self-harm. With a spade in his hand, John thinks to himself, “And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. A convincing thunder rumbled through the words.” (226) Here Huxley uses Shakespeare to bring light and death together to a focal point. Having John hide in the lighthouse has become grimly ironic and foreshadows his passing. The thunder acts as an ethereal approval of his thoughts, and foreshadows the imminent arrival of his torture. The fact that he cannot escape from his past manifests themselves in the crowd that surround him. We cannot be free of our past no more than we can from our shadows.

“There is no such thing as a good influence… all influence is immoral” was one of Oscar Wilde’s many witticisms. Our desires remain our captors long after our release. All of our acts and words are indelible, even the most innocuous of words can alter another person permanently. How can we be free if all our actions have consequences and if we secretly seek a master to guide us? Freedom, in all its incarnations, is illusory.

1 Comment

  1. Jill Belli

    Really fantastic post exploring freedom in the novel, Johnny! I’ve chosen this as as “featured post” … amazing job here 🙂

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