Sonia Cook
by on October 1, 2020
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In her article “Everybody Is Happy Now”, Margaret Atwood analyzes the book of Aldous Huxley called Brave New World. The writer describes how the society as a soft form of totalitarianism controls people through engineered, bottle-grown babies and hypnotic persuasion rather than through brutality, boundless consumption, promiscuity that does away with sexual frustration, and soma, a drug that confers instant bliss with no side effects. While this book report is the author’s view of the future from the first half of the 20th century, it is necessary to understand that the main points stated by Huxley seem to be true for the first half of the 21st century. Atwood lists these points and offers examples which show that they have become today’s reality. However, the real aim of the author of the article is not as simple as finding the evidence that all people are doomed to have the life as written by Huxley. Probably, her goal was to make people stop being blind in making life choices. Moreover, the title of the article saying that “Everyone Is Happy Now” is used to show that this belief is false. While the author claims that the world mostly lives by Huxley’s scenario, Atwood tries to convince that the image of utopian/ dystopian ‘happiness’ developed by the writer could not be the same for all people because of its controversies.

Consumerism

In the everyday life, consumerism seems bondless, just like Huxley wrote. Additionally, according to Atwood, “shopping malls stretch as far as the bulldozer can see” (par. 6), and this truth cannot be ignored or claimed to be false. This statement made by the author from the 20th century and supported by the one who lives currently is probably a single idea that is impossible to avoid. We are always targeted by shops, malls, and shopping centers that aim to make us buy goods, even if we do not need them at all. Moreover, this craziness of consumption has found people through the Internet on the screens of the monitors or smartphones. Therefore, boundless consumption, as claimed by Huxley and followed by Atwood, is undoubtedly a part of daily reality.

Sex as Recreation

On the other hand, a sad fact is considering sex as recreation, but not a child-birthing activity, along with giving birth to children from bottles, which is greatly largely nowadays, too. Following Atwood, because sex and procreation have been separated and women no longer give birth – the very idea is yuck-making to them – sex has become a recreation. In support of this argument, it is easy to list different means of contraception and avoiding unwanted pregnancy, which the writer also lists. Her viewpoint seems convincing. People indeed do many things to make sure that sex is recreation, but not an act that allows giving a birth of new life. However, it is probably wrong to boldly state that recently children have only been born from bottles. On the contrary, only women who are sterile, which Atwood also mentioned, but from a different standpoint, use this method for having a child. Moreover, they cannot have it in a natural way. Maybe, the time when children will be born only from bottles will still come, though for now, this claim has a somewhat different meaning as compared to the arguments of both Huxley and Atwood.

Promiscuity

At the same time, promiscuity, which is also introduced as part of Huxley’s modern happiness, can be understood differently and is very controversial for the general audience. This controversy is clearly evident in the images of the main characters of Brave New World, Lenina and John, the Savage. On the one hand, Lenina is curious why she shouldn’t have sex with anyone she likes whenever the occasion offers. In modern time of open sexual relations, which practically show that everyone belongs to everyone, as promoted by Huxley and based on television shows, series, images in magazines or any other media, her wondering about free sexual life seems more than usual. Moreover, laws that guarantee freedoms to people in spite of individual differences allow this right. In addition, even though Atwood did not pay attention to this fact, feminism encouraged women to claim various rights, including sexual freedom and resulting promiscuity, and probably understanding sex as recreation. Thus, Lenina’s desires should be true and realistic.

On the other hand, John’s opinion is useful in showing the controversy of endless promiscuity and the issue of sex in human life that cannot be perceived by all people in the same way. The Savage supports a different position and believes in religion and romance, and in suffering to be worthy of one’s beloved. Even Atwood herself remembers that she wore “elasticized panty girdles” when she was a girl. Therefore, this understanding of sex concerning promiscuity is not outdated as some readers may think. Besides, this issue does not show that women are obsessed with sex, while men are not sinful at all. The character of John just demonstrates that people differ, as well as their understanding of things, and this fact indirectly evidences Atwood’s attempt to encourage people to develop their own opinions rather than follow those of others.

Controversies as Making Difference

Finally, stepping aside from Huxley’s arguments, Atwood encourages the readers to find their own views on happiness, but not blindly follow the ideas of a general public. Atwood uses a question to make individuals think about this important issue: “do you see Lenina Crowne looking back at you, or do you see John the Savage?”. However, the question is not left unanswered. Instead, she writes that chances are, you’ll see something of both, because we’ve always wanted things both ways. In the end of the essay, the real author’s position is the most evident. The writer notes that human beings can imagine such enhanced states for themselves, though they can also question their own grandiose constructions. It follows that when writers like Huxley are correct enough in making predictions, some people may support their views and make their lives similar to what these writers imagined. At the same time, every person can choose his/her own way in life and make it different, in the way he/she sees it from own Olympus.

In “Everybody Is Happy Now,” even though Atwood claims that the modern people live as Huxley saw it, the author of the article convinces that the images of utopian/ dystopian ‘happiness’ developed by the writer are not the same for all people because of controversial opinions on happiness. On the one hand, the issue of boundless consumerism and a wish to have sexual freedom seem evident in today’s world and support the author’s claim. On the other hand, promiscuity among other aspects of utopia discussed by Huxley becomes one of the ways that show differences in people’s understanding of happiness and life choices. At the same time, the perception of children from bottles gives additional strength to supporting the differences in people. As a result, Atwood concludes that every person can choose own life position: follow what others find the best or “question own grandiose constructions”, and this argument seems to be the most appropriate.

Posted in: Education, Society
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