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Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Chapter 16

Chapters 13–15

Chapter 16, page 2

page 1 of 3

Summary: Chapter 16

The police leave Bernard, Helmholtz, and John in Mond’s office. Mond arrives and says to John, “So you don’t much like civilization, Mr. Savage.” John concedes, but admits that he does like some things, such as the constant sound of music. Mond responds with a quote from Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about my ears and sometimes voices.” John is pleasantly surprised to find that Mond has read Shakespeare.

Mond points out that Shakespeare is a forbidden text. In response to John’s questioning, he explains that such literature is banned for a number of reasons. In the first place, beautiful things, such as great literature, tend to last. People continue to like them even when they become quite old. A society based on consumerism, such as the World State, needs citizens who want new things. Newness is thus more important than intrinsic value, and high art must be suppressed to make room for the new. In the second place, the citizens of the World State would not be able to understand Shakespeare, because the stories he writes are based on experiences and passions that do not exist in the World State. Grand struggles and overpowering emotions have been sacrificed in favor of social stability. They have been replaced by what Mond calls “happiness,” by which he means the infantile gratification of appetites.

John is inclined to think that this brand of happiness creates monstrous and repulsive human beings. He challenges the Director, asking whether the citizens couldn’t at least all be created as Alphas. Mond replies that the World State has to have citizens who will be happy performing the functions that they have been assigned, and since Alphas are only happy doing Alpha (i.e., intellectual) work, the vast majority of the population actually has to be degraded and made stupid so that they will be happy with their place in life. He points to an experiment in which an entire island was populated with Alphas, and wholesale civil war quickly ensued, because none of the citizens were ever happy with the distribution of tasks.

Although the World State is a technotopia, meaning that it is made possible by technologies vastly more advanced than our own, Mond explains that even technology has to be kept under rigorous controls for the happy and stable society to be possible. Past a certain point, even labor-saving technologies have had to be suppressed to maintain a balance between labor and leisure. Keeping citizens happy requires keeping them at work for a certain amount of time.

Science has also had to be suppressed to create the happy and stable society. This is particularly ironic because World State citizens are taught to revere science as one of their most fundamental values. However, none of them—not even Alphas such as Helmholtz and Bernard—actually possess any scientific training, so they really don’t even know what science is. Mond doesn’t explain what it is, although he alludes to his own career as a young scientist who got himself into trouble by challenging conventional wisdom. One can infer that by “science,” Mond means the search for knowledge by means of the experimental method. Science cannot exist in the World State because the search for “truth” conflicts with happiness. This is very suggestive, because it implies that the entire society is somehow built upon lies, but he is tantalizingly unclear about what truths and what lies he is talking about.

Mond tells Helmholtz and Bernard that they will be exiled. Bernard begins to beg and plead for Mond to change his sentence. Three men drag him away to sedate him with soma. Mond says that Bernard does not know that exile is actually a reward. The islands are full of the most interesting people in the world, individuals who did not fit in the World State community. Mond tells Helmholtz that he almost envies him. Helmholtz asks why, if he is so envious, he did not choose exile when he was offered the choice. Mond explains that he prefers the work he does in managing the happiness of others.

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Our Ford

by AP-ness, July 29, 2012

Replacing the concept of a belief-based, non-verifiable being with Ford, a man who existed, eliminates all the wonder and mystery related to traditional religions.
Also eliminating all other belief systems with a single, inarguable "godhead" rids the World State citizens of anxiety and conflicts based on religious beliefs and orthodoxies.

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