“‘God isn’t compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness.'” So says Mustapha Mond, the World Controller for Western Europe in Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World. In doing so, he highlights a major theme in this story of a Utopian society. Although the people in this modernized world enjoy no disease, effects of old age, war, poverty, social unrest, or any other infirmities or discomforts, Huxley asks ‘is the price they pay really worth the benefits?’ This novel shows that when you must give up religion, high art, true science, and other foundations of modern life in place of a sort of unending happiness, it is not worth the sacrifice.
True, the citizens of this “brave new world” do enjoy many refinements and benefits to life. Lenina shows one thing they enjoy when on the reservation she sees an old Indian man and reacts with, “‘What’s the matter with him?’ ‘He’s old, that’s all,’ ‘But the Director’s old; lots of people are old; they’re not like that.'” (Huxley 110) Evidently Utopia has succeeded in eliminating the effects of old age. Being able to live one’s entire life youthful certainly would be wonderful. It is not a thrilling prospect to grow weaker with age, gradually having your sense’s perceptiveness fade, so most anyone would prefer this ‘unimpaired youth.’ There are other things which also make life easier, pointed out by Mustapha Mond talking to John the Savage, “‘But there aren’t any wars nowadaysThere’s no such thing as a divided allegiance; you’re so conditioned that you can’t help doing what you ought to do. And what you ought to do is on the whole so pleasant, so many of the natural impulses are allowed free play, that there really aren’t any temptations to resist. And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a
holiday from the facts,'” (Huxley 243, 244). The people are never unhappy, there is nothing in society to bring about strong emotions, and any desires they have are almost immediately fulfilled. If anything is wrong, the people can take soma, a drug that makes you happy and high and has no adverse affects. One might be led to believe that this society is a perfect place to live, since all the inhabitants are eternally happy. There are no wars, pain, or suffering, all definite pluses, yet readers must not judge too quickly.
Everything comes at a price, and the price that is paid for the new order is sadly high, costing the Utopians the benefits of high art, true religion, real science, and family life, which all have been removed to promote stability. “‘Othello’s better than those feelies.’ ‘Of course it isBut that’s the price we have to pay for stability. You’ve got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We’ve sacrificed the high art. We have the feelies and the scent organ instead.’ ‘But they don’t mean anything,'” (Huxley 226) This conversation shows one of the tradeoffs made. Stories like Othello are inspired by strong emotions, and Utopia has done away with them. Now, there is nothing to write about, and if something was written along the lines of Othello it might cause people to think, causing instability. The movies people see are idiotic and plotless, based solely on sensations. Religion as we know it has been done away with also, as Mustapha Mond showed by his comments quoted at the beginning of this paper. Religion usually involves self-denial, and that is contrary to everything the new society is based on. With instant gratification and life long youth full of youthful distractions for all, any sort of conventional religion would change all of the people’s actions. Following self-denial and morality, people would be unhappy, and the whole
social structure would collapse. Although science is supposedly glorified, real science has been done away with, for as Mond points out, “‘all our science is just a cookery book, with an orthodox theory of cooking that nobody’s allowed to question, and a list of recipes that mustn’t be added to except by special permission from the head cook,'” (Huxley 232). The new world does not want scientific advances, because advances in science mean changes in society, and thus government. Science also means truths revealed, and it is better that the people stay ignorant. As long as they remain so, they are happy with their present lives, not only non-desiring of change, but unaware that the possibility even exists. The Utopians have also given up family life completely, seen when Mustapha Mond is talking to a young group of boys, “Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. But there were also husbands, wives, lovers. There were also monogamy and romance. ‘Though you probably don’t know what those are,’ said Mustapha Mond. They shook their heads ‘But every one belongs to every one else,’ he concluded, citing the hypnopadic proverb. The students nodded, emphatically agreeing with a statement which upwards of sixty-two thousand repetitions in the dark had made them acceptutterly indisputable,” (Huxley 39, 40). One of our most sacred establishments has been done away with, all for the purpose of the state motto “Community, Identity, Stability.” A normal home environment varies from family to family, with the result of a large variety of personality types, whereas the Utopians need people to be very similar to keep everyone agreeing and happy. Thus, they genetically manufacture all people, conditioning them to their future lives as they grow in a bottle,
and immediately beginning brainwashing techniques as soon as they are born to be raised
by the state.
The state of happiness enjoyed by the Utopians is merely superficial, resolving around gratification of simple desires, and elimination of all possibility for encountering undesirable feelings. Mustapha Mond himself, a world controller, shows this when speaking of his choice to take a chance at becoming a world leader over being able to practice his pure science isolated from society, “‘Sometimes,’ he added, ‘I rather regret the science. Happiness is a hard masterA much harder master, if one isn’t conditioned to accept it unquestioningly, than truth,'” (Huxley 233). Mond is one of the ten most powerful people on earth, and yet he is not truly happy. He knows that most of the world is based on lies to keep the citizens happy, while he would prefer to expand knowledge, finding truth and beauty in life. After awhile, the life of the Utopians is an extremely shallow existence, especially if one knows the truth. John the Savage was raised outside of the brave new world, with influences from his Indian life, mother’s stories of Utopia, and the plays of Shakespeare, so he can look at this new society from a more accurate viewpoint. He thinks Utopia is a sick and amoral society, and even tries to change it when confronted with a crowd of genetically copied twins receiving their government soma ration. He shouts at them, “‘But do you like being slaves?Do you like being babies? Yes, babies. Mewling and pukingDon’t you want to be free and men? Don’t you even understand what manhood and freedom are?'” (Huxley 218). He then throws out the soma, which starts a riot, and the police have to come stop it. John is the only one who can clearly see the moral depravation of their society. The chemical dependence and extreme promiscuity of these people appears to keep them happy, but it
is not true happiness. True happiness comes from within, and this is something impossible for Utopians to obtain.
In the end, it is evident that the brave new world is not nearly as wonderful as it looks at a glance. While they have succeeded in removing many problems now plaguing mankind, the price they pay is too high. They eradicated art, science, religion, real love, and family life, all distinguishing marks between humans and animals. In exchange, they received stability with no wars, social unrest, poverty or disease. However, they only live with an artificial happiness, which they have been brainwashed to love since infancy. The Savage could see that it was nothing but valueless vice, and when he accidentally succumbs to that which he so detested, he commits suicide after waking from his ‘soma holiday.’ Aldous Huxley is also sending us many warning messages with his novel. If we spend too much of our lives pursuing happiness through physical fulfillment, we will miss out on what is truly important, our relationships with other people and with God. He is also telling us to be careful with our science, or we may end up like the Utopians, mass producing identical citizens, then brainwashing them to think alike, and to think exactly what the government mandates. Huxley tells us not to cheapen sex through promiscuity, because it is supposed to be something to express a deep and undying love to someone, not a simple carnal pleasure. These were just some of the mistakes the Utopians made, all of which contributed to their lives being shallow and meaningless. They were not truly happy, because they misplaced their values and failed to see what brings true joy and peace in one’s life. The apparent blissfulness in which they lived turned out to be nothing, their Utopia was not worth the high price they paid.