by Michelle Smith 05/04
In the Brave New World, people are in solitude as rarely as possible. This includes reading for recreational purposes. John is told that the library “contains only books of reference. If our young people need distraction, they can get it at the feelies. We don't encourage them to indulge in any solitary amusements”(125). The feelies are less dangerous than reading not only because reading is by nature something that one person does, but also because the feelies themselves are quite different from movies as we know them today. The feelies physically stimulate your body so that you have no choice but to feel a certain way during a certain scene. They try to dissolve the distance between viewer and movie so that there is little gap through which to interpret the film. Despite this, the Savage manages to find some room for interpretation, as we learn when he labels the supposed villain of Three Weeks in a Helicopter as its hero(BNW 131). Nevertheless, each viewer literally feels the same things as the movie is on the screen.
Later, John shows us that having such a “real” false experience debases actual experience; when he kisses Lenina, he is reminded of the fake kisses of the feelies; “Ooh! Ooh! The stereoscopic blonde and ahh! The more than real blackamoor. Horror, horror, horror”(BNW 147). In contrast to the feelies, reading leaves so much up to the imagination that there are an infinite number of possible reactions to any given text. (And in hypertext there are an infinite number of possibilites as far as what constitutes the text itself).
There is also a concern that being alone, especially alone in nature, leads to having different, individual ideas. At the beginning of the novel, Lenina hates looking out at the vast night sky; “She was appalled by the rushing emptiness of the night, by the black foam-flecked water heaving beneath them, by the pale face of the moon, so haggard and distracted among the hastening clouds”(BNW 69). However, for Bernard, it is this sky that helps him to feel “as though I were more me… more on my own, not so completely a part of something else. Not just a cell in the social body”(BNW 69).
The Savage also speaks of having enlightened thoughts when alone in the night in nature. It is when he is excluded from the coming of age rituals of the tribe, sitting alone on the edge of a cliff, that he begins to comprehend his life as part of a vast system.
“The moon was behind him; he looked down into the black shadow of the mesa, into the black shadow of death. He had only to take one step, one little jump…. He held out his right hand in the moonlight. From the cut on his wrist the blood was still oozing. Every few seconds a drop fell, dark, almost colourless in the dead light. Drop, drop, drop. To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow… He had discovered Time and Death and God”(105).
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