“Did you ever feel,” he asked, “as though you had something inside you that was only waiting for you to give it a chance to come out? Some sort of extra power that you weren’t using—you know, like all the water that goes down the falls instead of through the turbines?”
Helmholtz begins the novel feeling a vague discontent which he cannot fully understand. Here, we begin to see that his problem is talent. Helmholtz’s talent for the written word drives him to seek more emotional experience than the World State allows. He is not content to use only the socially useful parts of his talent, “the water that goes […] through the turbines.” Through Helmholtz’s story, Brave New World suggests that the relationship between intense emotion and art is an essential part of life not only for people who suffer (like John) but also for artists, like Helmholtz.
He had managed, with a heroic effort, to hold down the mounting pressure of his hilarity; but “sweet mother” (in Savage’s tremulous tone of anguish) and the reference to Tybalt lying dead, but evidently uncremated and wasting his phosphorus on a dim monument, were too much for him. He laughed and laughed till the tears streamed down his face […] “Why was that old fellow such a marvelous propaganda technician? Because he had so many insane, excruciating things to get excited about.”
Helmholtz is the only character raised in the World State who sees value in poetry. At this stage, he is balanced between two opposing viewpoints. Like John, he sees clearly that “insane, excruciating things” are the material for great poetry. Unlike John, however, he does not believe that the beauty of Shakespeare’s writing justifies the absurdity of things like natural childbirth or wasting the phosphorus in a corpse.
Helmholtz rose from his pneumatic chair. “I should like a thoroughly bad climate,” he answered. “I believe one would write better if the climate were bad. If there were a lot of wind and storms, for example…”
In his final appearance, Helmholtz chooses to suffer in order to produce beautiful writing. This choice suggests that he has come to agree with John that the beauty of art makes suffering worthwhile. However, Helmholtz’s vague idea that “a lot of wind and storms” might improve his writing suggests that he is naïve about the real cost of suffering.