Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World are the two literary works that accentuate the theme of alienation in the classical societies that they were explicitly set to represent. The two works are set against the highly stratified social and political background whereby dominion and manipulations of the lower caste by the members of the ruling class culminated into an alienation of majority mass within their respective societies. Both the Yevgeny Zamatyan’s We and the Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World are in agreement that an imminent tenacity to overcome repression of the ruling class and quest for enlightenment are the real causes of alienation in the dystopian society. Through the careful analysis of the two books, this paper attempts to discuss the common perception of the two authors on the extent of alienation in the two parallel dystopian societies.
Alienation in We and the Brave New World
The common theme of alienation is given a special preference in both literary works though on different context. Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We features how individual characters could be separated from One State on the basis of subjective law, lifestyle, popular cultures and prevailing philosophical ideologies within the mainstream society. The same situation applies to the Brave New World quite as well. This section will compare and contrast the degree and mechanisms of the concept alienation in We and the Brave New World.
The concept of alienation is predominantly featured in the two literary works with the matching drive and dynamism. Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We narrates the story of the main character D-503 in the One State. The urban nation is constructed purely of glass apartments to facilitate the operations of the secret spies, supervisors and police on the public. In order to maximize the productivity of citizens across the One State, all the activities of the human characters, recognized by their identification numbers, are closely monitored by the Bureau of Guardians from the glass apartments where they work. Through the life of D-503, Zamyatin shows various mechanisms through which citizens of the One State are alienated in the society where they are designated to live.
Similarly, Huxley brings to the fore discriminative treatments offered to different castes of children at the time of their creation and subsequent upbringing to the detriment of the lower caste that are less privileged in the State. Fetus of children falling within the highest ranking caste, Alpha, are given an uninterrupted opportunity to develop naturally till the attainment of the maturity stage while those of remaining castes, Epsilon, Delta, Gamma, and Beta are subjected to varying degree of chemical interferences which will in turn arrest the full development of their physical growth and intelligence (65). The whole of this exercise amounts to the alienation of fetuses as manifested in the two contrasting characters: Bernard and his close ally and confidant Helmholtz Watson.
Incidences of Alienation in We and the Brave New World
Huxley features two highly gifted and talented characters namely Bernard Marx and Helmholtz Watson to bring to fore the concept of alienation in his novel. Even though the two prominent personalities are drawn from the leading Alpha caste, they are both regarded as outcasts in the New World contrary to the readers’ expectations. Their outstanding physical and intellectual attributes that surpasses the stipulated standards form the basis of their alienation. “Too little bone and brawn had isolated Bernard from his fellow men, and the sense of this apartness, being, by all the current standards, a mental excess, became in its turn a cause of wider separation (Huxley 102). From the Huxley’s point of view, any character with a deviating physical or cognitive trait from the expected is considered an outcast in the dystopian society.
In this perspective, Bernard is not well received by other members of his Alpha class because his excess in height is considered as a deformity. In more than one occasion, the character is openly deprecated in public notwithstanding his high social standing in the New World. In a bid to survive these criticism and condemnations, he resorts to take solace in alcohol- a phenomenon that attracts him a further reproach across the board. At one time, Bernard is likened to a rhinoceros and a poor Devil by one of his former disgruntled lover Lenina following his failure to perform his manly duties on bed. “You can’t teach a rhinoceros tricks. Some men are almost rhinoceroses; they don’t respond properly to conditioning. Poor Devils! Bernard’s one of them. (Huxley 134-135). Similarly, his habitual imbibing nature earns him further alienation from the mainstream society. “Alcohol in his blood-surrogate,” (Huxley 133)
Another character employed by Huxley to bring forth the theme of alienation in the Brave New World is Helmholtz Watson. The only Alpha Plus and a lecturer friend Helmholtz is no exception. Despite his endowment with vast intelligence, Helmholtz is also facing the pangs of alienation for his outright rejection of soma as is the norm in New World. “He had wondered what it would be like to be subjected to soma yet he had inward resources to rely on,” (Huxley 159). Helmholtz is termed an outfit because he is too strong in the physical, too handsome and gifted more than any other member of his caste (Huxley 137).
Just like Huxley in the Brave New World, Zamyatin’s We vividly captures alienation of the citizens across the One State. D-503 and I-330 are alienated from the society because of their relentless quest to explore the world beyond the Green Wall in a bid to reunite with the external world around them. “I sought and could not find a way out of this wild thicket of logic. It was the unknown and eerie jungles as that other one, behind the Green Wall inhabited by the extraordinary, incomprehensible creatures that spoke without words” (79). Based on this stunning revelation of the character D-503, the inhabitants of the State are curtailed in the manner in which they view the world around them with an exception of D-503 who is seen as an outcast for his prying for the new knowledge. “D-503 gets up and paces, thinking about this absurd “soul” tearing him from his life’s anchor, mathematics” (15).
To the surprise of many readers, Zamyatin exposed the most discriminative alienation of D-503 and I-330 alongside other characters in We for their acts of kindness whose tenets are otherwise considered cruelty by the law of the State One no matter the beneficiary at hand. “I am very fond of children, and I believe that the most difficult and noble love is – cruelty” (95). Successive attempts to separate individuals from their own emotional feelings are the highest degree of alienation ever featured by Zamyatin in the book: We.
Zamyatin is explicit that smoking, alcohol and sex which are all illegalized by States laws form the basis upon which D-503 and I-330 get alienated. In his statement to his lover I-330, “You know that everyone who poisons himself with nicotine, and especially alcohol, is ruthlessly destroyed by the One State...” (43). This is an attestation that the laws play a fundamental role in alienating the characters from their own inner being and personality- a phenomenon that compels the two lovers to go into hiding at the Ancient House so as to express their intimacy and do anything that would satisfy their gratification against the stipulations of the law.
Comparison between Brave New World and We
The two books are concomitant that alienation is a social and political creation of the ruling class to perpetuation class distinction in their respective dystopian societies as is the case with One State and the New World. These ruling elites through their appointed agencies alienate the majority masses to ensure they uphold their power to rule over them by not giving them equal opportunities within the dystopian societies. In the ordinary sense, individual members of a society are not only denied access to various privileges in a society but are also conditioned to accept the mere fact that they are lesser beings. For instance, the ordinary citizens are reduced to mere numbers in the One State of We in one hand while the masses are fully conditioned to live in denial, suppress their emotional feelings and forsake their natural ways of living to embrace the political and sociological ideologies of the state on the other.
In conclusion, the Brave New World and We, explicitly features the theme and concept of alienation. Although the two authors capture alienation in different contexts, it is most apparent that the concept (alienation) emerges from discriminative treatment given to different members of the society under the same conditions. It is the whole social and political instigated practice that leads to class distinction in a society as portrayed by Huxley and Zamyatin in the Brave New World and We respectively. Finally, alienation is a political and social creation by the ruling elites with the sole intention of perpetuating their political rule on the masses.