Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Chapter 16

Summary Chapter 16

Mond believes that the islands are a good thing to have around since dissidents like Helmholtz and Bernard would probably have to be killed if they could not be exiled. He asks Helmholtz if he would like to go to a tropical island. Helmholtz says that he would prefer an island with a bad climate since it might help him write. He accepts Mond’s suggestion that he go to the Falkland Islands.

Analysis: Chapter 16

The conversation between Mond and John is the intellectual heart of Brave New World. It is here that the issues implied by the rest of the novel are made explicit, and discussed in an abstract form.

The rationale that Mond provides for suppressing John’s beloved Shakespeare gives us a crucial key to understanding the rest of their conversation. The mere fact that Shakespeare is old means that he doesn’t contribute to consumer behavior. (Huxley, of course, ignores the fact that people purchase new editions of Shakespeare, Shakespeare college courses, SparkNotes, etc.) While this reason seems superficial in comparison with Mond’s more developed arguments, it draws our attention to the fact that consumerism is central to the world of Brave New World. Like other dystopias, this novel doesn’t simply show us a world that is different from our own, it shows us a world that is a mirror of ours, with the worst features of our world drawn out and exaggerated. One of the central facets of Huxley’s novel is directed against the ever-increasing value it places on consumerism.

By showing a world that suppresses institutions and experiences that are sacred in our own world in order to make way for the development of consumer values, Huxley demonstrates a conflict of values that exists in our own society. The “value” that drives the consumer is simply the gratification of appetites. In Brave New World, this one value has been developed to the point that people are “adults during worktime,” but infants in their leisure time and in their relationships. So Huxley’s first criticism of consumerism is that it is infantile—adults should be capable of other things.

If consumption is the “happiness” that Mond refers to in his description of the World State, the other value that his society is predicated on is “stability.” In Mond’s account, happiness and stability depend upon one another. The stability Mond is talking about is economic stability, the uninterrupted cycle of production and consumption. But emotional, psychological, and social stability are also important, because they all contribute to the first kind of stability.

Mond’s argument about the things that must be sacrificed to create a “stable and happy” society may be read, ironically, as an argument that our values are incompatible with consumer behavior and economic stability. The values that Mond sacrifices may be summarized as follows: