There have been many literary works which have addressed the issue of oppressive regimes, though few have presented this vision as well as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and similarly with Lois Lowry's The Giver. There are many striking similarities between these two novels, though there are also significant differences. The general concept is where the similarity is, since both novels are set in futures that are very different to the modern world we know today. Both civilizations are very advanced technologically, and this technology allows for the complete control over humans, with things such as genetic engineering and selection, cloning, and brainwashing. In both novels, the future societies are both in reach of content and happiness, though at the sacrifice of freedom. Humans are genetically engineered and pre-conditioned to behave in a certain way. In general the populace is designed to be content and not to rise against the establishment, by the selective elimination of undesirable traits and emotions.
Brave New World is set around 600 years from the release of the book, with the totalitarian World Controllers holding dominion over human society. The goal of the World Controllers is to ensure the stability and wellbeing of human society with the principle of utilitarianism, which is the desire to attain the greatest level of happiness for every human individual. To reach this goal, two things are conducted. Firstly is the control over the genetics of the human populace, which allows them to control the types of human they need, physically, cognitively and emotionally. Secondly, each person's individuality is matched to their job and status in life, and this matching begins from birth, using social conditioning and perpetual brainwashing. For example, people are born and conditioned to be afraid of things that the Controllers want them to be afraid of, and people who are predisposed to manual work will live their lives doing so. Social conditioning is also enforced by the drug Soma, which induces feelings of happiness, and is the social norm amongst human citizens. While the society embraces sexual activity and hedonism, the concepts of love and family have been obliterated.
The goal of the World Controllers is to make their society happy so that society behaves efficiently and 'as it should'. Severe constrictions are placed on humanity in the aims of keeping the society stable, and each individual is very limited in what they can do, but there is little any individual can do when they have been selected and conditioned from birth. This is similar to The Giver, where humans are genetically engineered so that they cannot tell the difference between colors or musical tones. The goal of the leaders in The Giver is similar to A Brave New World, in that that they want everyone to be as similar to each other as possible , or 'Sameness'. Both novels present very oppressive, and yet very advanced and structured societies, where emotions are outlawed and there is no room or tolerance for love or true human connection. There are differences in family and childhood between the books however. For Huxley's novel, there is no such thing as family or partners, but rather a caste system. In Lowry's novel, there are families, but they are not controlled by the people. And people are matched according to their personality. It is true for both novels that the people in each society have no control over their lives, and that their fate is in the hands of the regimes. This is completely detrimental to living a full and proper life, in which your own decisions can be made and your dreams realized. In Brave New World, technology controls the populace, physically and mentally. Babies are made like tools are made on a construction line, in a completely predetermined fashion.
While no-one has control over their lives in either case, the fact there is also no such thing as poverty, or anguish makes both societies seem utopian and ideal. All thoughts of war, strife pain and poverty are non-existent within the societies, and for The Giver, the actual memories of such things are removed, which appears to keep everyone happy and content. But the fact is that it is only really the leaders that benefit out of this system. In Huxley's novel, people are trained to be instinctive consumers and hard workers, to keep the society running and the economy healthy. The caste system, which puts each type of person in their place, ensures that all levels of society function as they should. Similarly, in The Giver, people are designated different roles for community and society at large. This can be seen as positive because it is less restrictive than for Brave New World, and the arrangements seem to promote a prosperous society and people.
On the surface, it looks that these societies are a good thing, because they are ensuring happiness for every living member in the society, but if we look deeper, the freedoms that are taken away to promote such happiness and prosperity are unforgivable. Life is simply a commodity in these societies, and everyone is a replaceable asset. Huxley explains in accordance with this point that the purpose of life has nothing to do with maintaining happiness or anything superficial, but to develop and refine our consciousness and meaning, and enlarge our knowledge.
In the end we can see that the elimination of the very things that make us human, such as the arts, music, literature, culture, connection, freedom, passion and emotion, are the very things that have been taken away to control us, and to provide a state of societal bliss. It seems good on the very thinnest of surfaces, but does not take too long to work out that this is not a good thing for any society, today or in the future. People in these books have no feelings, aspirations, selflessness, consideration, or many other things that make us human - instead we live a pointless existence. In the end, a nation that eliminates creativity and the individual, with people that have no control to make their own choices and shape their own lives and live in a perpetual state of fake happiness is not a beneficial nation at all.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 1998.
Lowry, Lois. The Giver. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1993.