Imagine, just for a moment, a story. In this story, a hero loses his way, physically or otherwise, and must face a great evil. This hero learns a valuable lesson from a wise old mentor of some sort, and eventually saves the day.
Now, I just gave you an extremely vague description, but chances are you thought of something almost immediately. Whether it was a book, a movie, a fairy tale, or any other form of story. The list of things you could have thought of is too long to even imagine. That’s because all of the things I mentioned, the hero, the most common examples of archetypes. Archetypes can be found in an endless number of stories.
Brave New World is a novel by Aldous Huxley, and it is no stranger to archetypes. The book is set in a dystopian future where all sorts of injustices are committed. Babies aren’t born, but grown in labs and conditioned to like whatever existence they’re destined for. The masses are kept in check by a euphoric drug, called “soma”. Contraceptives are forced upon people, and promiscuity is a pinnacle of society, and “everyone belongs to everyone else” (Huxley 39). The story follows a lonely outcast named Bernard Marx, who longs to have individuality and not to be a slave to his conditioning. As an archetype, he stands out the most, so we’ll start our analysis with him (please keep in mind that this analysis is only based on reading the first half of the novel, and that things could change later on in the story).
Bernard Marx, the loner, the outcast, and arguably the hero. Marx seeks his individuality, to “[n]ot just [be] a cell in a social body” (80-81). The only obstacle in his way is the entire world he lives in and just about everyone else in it, which is the great evil the hero must overcome, but we’ll get to that later. A common archetype that Marx falls into is not just the hero, but the hero seeking paradise, the overcoming of this archetypal evil and achieving paradise.
Brave New World does a fantastic job of painting a horrifying picture of the perfect totalitarian regime. Unlike other similar dystopian books, like 1984, for example, the citizens of this terrifying regime are not kept in line by any form of fear like “Big Brother” and the “thought police”. The citizens of this reality are kept in line by cruel but effective conditioning and being raised in an environment where they don’t even know how to think freely. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would certainly call this form of leadership evil, which brings us to our next archetypal comparison. Antagonistic forces are a necessity in any good story. 1984‘s previously mentioned “Big Brother”, or often the antagonistic force is more personal. For example, the Arthurian Legend had Mordred. In the case of Brave New World, the antagonistic force is, overwhelmingly enough for our poor hero, everyone.
Those are the two big ones, but a smaller, less noticeable archetype is Lenina Crowne, a character in the book and a love interest of Bernard Marx. Lenina is an example, albeit a skewed one, of the lover archetype. Lenina is one of the many successfully brainwashed people of this story, so the classic description of the lover archetype won’t fit perfectly. Lenina plays the role of Marx’s “girlfriend”, so to speak, although their relationship is a lot more distant than that. She does like Marx, but she isn’t particularly interested in him relative to other men. Her main interest in him is that he “asked [her] to go to one of the Savage Reservations with him” (43). Nonetheless, their relationship shows some degree of romantic qualities.
Those are the most noticeable archetypes that I have spotted. If you feel I missed some important details, or you just want to share your thoughts, feel free to leave a comment.