Brave New World

by: Aldous Huxley

Happiness and Agency

Quotes Happiness and Agency
“And that,” put in the Director sententiously, “that is the secret of happiness and virtue—liking what you've got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.”

This line occurs in Chapter 1, when Henry is explaining the process of heat conditioning for embryos that are destined to become steel workers and miners in the tropics. According to the Director and to the principles of Fordist society, happiness is conditioned acceptance of your circumstances. However, the Director does not mention the fact that each person’s “unescapable social destiny” has been determined by authority figures like the Director himself. The quote makes is clear that his worldview entirely discounts the possibility or the importance of human choice or agency.

“But if she were to say yes, what rapture! Well, now she had said it and he was still wretched.”

After Bernard has a date with Lenina, he realizes that though it was the one thing he thought he wanted, it did not make him happy. Because Lenina didn't act in any “abnormal, extraordinary way,” as he had secretly hoped, he realized that she was in fact just like everyone else. For Bernard Marx, difference and individuality are appealing and important, and he is happiest with people who are not identical.

“You can't make tragedies without social instability. The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill; they're not afraid of death; they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they're plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they're so conditioned that they practically can't help behaving as they ought to behave.”

Mustapha speaks these lines to John when he demands to know why no great literature has been written in the new society, and why Shakespeare has been banned. For Mustapha, stability is the highest goal of human society, so it is best when all human emotions can be eliminated except for bland enjoyment. John makes the point that without the whole range of human emotion and experience, literature and art can no longer exist. To John, this is a huge loss and terrible fate for humanity. But in Mustapha’s view, this is the best possible world.

“In spite of their sadness—because of it, even; for their sadness was the symptom of their love for one another—the three young men were happy.”

This line occurs at the end of scene with John, Bernard, and Helmholtz, right before Bernard and Helmholtz leave for an island away from Fordist society. They are sad because they are about to be separated, but this sadness does not negate their happiness and their love for each other. This overlap of complex emotions is a direct contrast to the words about happiness as satisfaction and the absence of difficult feelings that appear throughout the book. It suggests that perhaps sadness is a component of being happy and feeling love.