Brave New World is a prominent dystopian novel written by Aldous Huxley in 1932. As well as any other work of literature, Brave New World is a crucial source of information about society and its members. Generally, the events depicted in the novel take place in post-war London in 632 A.F. At first sight, the society depicted in the novel and life within it seem to be extremely different from present-day ones. The world consists of five castes. People do not completely realize what the concepts “family”, “marriage”, “childbirth” mean, as they do not deal with them in their daily life. Everyone works for everyone else, and thus all the efforts of individuals work for the wellbeing of the whole society. Main characters of the novel travel to reservation and bring back a “savage” who eventually tries to rebel and dies at the end of the novel. Hence, the three sociological concepts that are to be discussed are the functionalism, gender stratification and primary groups, and conflict theory.
Functionalism is a sociological perspective that interprets every single part of society in accordance with its contribution to the social stability. In other words, each part of society depends upon another one, and it is considered functional for the general stability. When one part does not work or is dysfunctional, it affects all the other parts and causes various social problems, including social changes. According to functional theory, all the institutions within one society are closely connected and interrelated.
Society, which is depicted by Aldous Huxley, consists of five classes. The five castes are the Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons where Alphas is the highest caste and Epsilons is the lowest one. A human being is born to be a member of one of these castes and to make an appointed contribution to the wellbeing of society. His life is “pre-destined” as there is no other destiny, but the one that has been planned out. The only way to stability and prosperity is “liking what you’ve got to do” because “all conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny”. That is why people learn how to respect the representatives of higher caste, as well as how to make pleasure in not being the member of the lower ones. Each caste has some characteristic features, qualities, jobs, etc. Besides, there is no social mobility. Once someone is born either as Alpha or as Epsilon, he will never have another social role. To be easily recognized representatives of different castes wear clothes of different colors.
Every caste is important to keep the perfect society functioning. They are conditioned to believe that all they contribute to the happiness of their society. Everyone is a necessary part of the whole. “Every one works for every one else. We cannot do without anyone. Even Epsilons are useful”. Thus, in terms of functionalism the society is seen as a complex machine that will break down at once if even one detail is out of order.
Gender stratification is the second sociological concept that is to be singled out as meaningful in the novel Brave New World. Gender stratification is defined as unequal distribution of power and privilege between men and women. In the World State, all the leaders are men, while women are viewed just as sexual object. The primary roles of women are to be promiscuous and to take care of children. Besides, women conform to stereotypical nutrition roles, as they are to nurture the embryos.
As the needs of society (but not the needs of individuals) are of major importance, there are no primary groups, namely families. People do not have long-term relations, and promiscuity and polygamy are quite normal. Society, which lives with the motto “Community, Identity, Stability” knows neither marriages, nor monogamous relationships. There are no mothers or fathers. Women use contraceptives to avoid pregnancy. In case a woman gets pregnant, she hurries to abortion center without a doubt, as pregnancy dishonors, and what is more pregnancy is equal to an inexpiable sin. Hence, with no primary groups, love and passion do no exist at all. Society is supported by either by societal leaders or soma, a special drug they use to get rid of inadequate emotions. Thus, all the control and conditioning are left to the government whereas moral values remain abandoned and forgotten.
Finally, the third concept is a conflict theory. In terms of sociology, conflict theory deals with the role of power and coercion in maintaining the social order. Usually, social order is a result of domination, with power in the hands of individuals with greatest economic, political, and social resources. Generally, conflict theory relates to the issues of gender, class, and race, as they can be the grounds of the most enduring societal problems and concerns.
In Brave New World leaders control people by means of science. The lives of people are totally controlled, from the conception to the death. Controllers use three scientific methods to maintain order, namely genetic engineering, conditioning, and soma. Genetic engineering, for example, helps to manipulate genes for producing a specific kind of human being that is fit to living as a member of a certain caste and do certain work. The process of conditioning is another method of control. According to it, children are given messages that “help” them to feel and think in certain way. Besides, leaders control people by means of soma. Soma is a drug that all castes have to use in order to get rid of such feelings as sadness, anger, disappointment and others. “And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering." On taking soma, people relax and continue to do the things they have to do according to their role in society. As a result, society is pacified and stable. There are no conditions favorable for revolution or rebellion.
Summing up, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is the source of information about society and such sociological issues as functionalism, gender stratification, and conflict theory. Society of the World State is divided into castes, each of them with its own peculiarities and tasks. Similarly, in our society there are people of different social statuses and classes, who as well as Huxley’s characters wear different clothes and do different jobs. The society is a complex system, each part of which is dependent upon another one. In this particular novel, the concept of functionalism is of major importance. Being concerned with the wellbeing of society the citizens of “brave new world” have forgotten about monogamy, family, and childbirth. Instead, women are to be promiscuous, nurture embryos and take care of children. At the same time, everything depends on people’s realization of their roles, and that is why Controllers do their best to support genetic engineering and conditioning, the methods of societal control. Although, the world in the novel is rather ridiculous and unusual, it resembles the one we live in, and the main aim of Aldous Huxley was to draw readers’ attention to the existing problems and the ways to their solutions.