Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.


Soma, a drug which makes the user experience vivid hallucinations of happiness, pervades the World State’s culture and serves as an important method of social control. The drug’s presence upholds the “stability” component of the World State’s motto by enabling individuals to keep negative thoughts and feelings at bay, essentially preventing them from finding a reason to challenge the status quo. Soma’s recurring appearances at casual social gatherings, mealtimes, rituals like the Solidarity Service, the workplace, and private residences emphasize the massive extent to which many of the novel’s characters depend on its satisfying effects.

While soma serves as a symbol of the government’s control across the text as a whole, its meaning becomes more nuanced as each primary character offers their own interpretation of what the drug signifies to them. Lenina, for example, sees the consumption of soma as a fact of life, citing the hypnopaedic rhyme “a gramme is always better than a damn,” while Bernard resists it out of a desire to free himself from the State’s conditioning. Later, John defiantly labels soma as a poison and Mustapha Mond likens to “Christianity without tears,” or an ability to become virtuous without maintaining rigorous moral standards. Each of these interpretations offers a glimpse into the wide variety of functions that soma has and reveals in more detail why it serves as such an effective form of control. By preying on both instinctual and conditioned desires for ease, simplicity, and happiness, soma effectively poisons a person’s independence and renders them a victim of the World State’s control. 


From the very first pages of the novel and the earliest stages of embryonic development, bottles are a key image in the World State’s culture. The Director explains to both his young students and the reader that every human life develops within a bottle until it matures enough to be decanted, or removed. This technological process, which is particularly sterile and exacting, symbolically strips individuals of their human nature by removing the emotion and developing personal relationships that traditionally characterize the early stages of life. Ultimately, the citizens of the World State are a manufactured product more than they are human beings. 

The direct association between bottles and embryonic development also allows Huxley to use bottle imagery as a metaphor for infantile behavior and desires. Given that the World State encourages adults to satisfy their most basic impulses through soma and sexual freedom, it seems unsurprising that this symbolism appears outside the walls of the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. Lenina and Henry, for example, hear a song featuring the line “Bottle of mine, it’s you I’ve always wanted” while on their date at the Westminster Abbey Cabaret, and Huxley uses the word “bottled” multiple times to describe their return to Henry’s room to have sex. In this scenario, the bottle references symbolize their continual pursuit of humanity’s most basic and instinctual desires.

As the novel draws to a close, the bottle imagery returns and works to represent the overall effects of the World State’s careful breeding process and culture of instant gratification. Mustapha Mond explains to John in Chapter 16 that everyone “goes through life inside a bottle,” a metaphor which suggests that the structure of their society inevitably constrains individuality and self-discovery. Finding meaning and purpose as an adult is impossible when the conditions of childhood, including caste and conditioning, never disappear. By the end, bottles are a powerful symbol of the tight grip the World State has over individuals from fertilization to death. 

The Abandoned Lighthouse

After meeting with Mustapha Mond and debating topics such as beauty, passion, truth, and religion, John seeks refuge from civilization by moving into an abandoned lighthouse. The lighthouse, which sits atop a hill and overlooks a beautiful, natural landscape, seems like an ideal place for John to purify himself of the World State’s simplemindedness and commitment to social control at the expense of individual thoughts and feelings. Due to their inherent function of shining a light into darkness, lighthouses can easily serve as a symbol of intellectual or spiritual enlightenment. John’s primary goal in moving to this isolated abode, which he describes almost as if it were a piece of Romantic art, is to reclaim his sense of humanity by connecting with God and reveling in freedom, or finding his own light within the darkness of the World State.

While the general symbolism of lighthouses makes it seem as though John will fulfill his desire to achieve intellectual and spiritual enlightenment, the fact that this particular lighthouse is abandoned suggests that he will ultimately fail. The light no longer shines, essentially dooming John to live in both literal and metaphorical darkness. By the end of the novel, this symbolic foreshadowing becomes true as John participates the orgy that begins among those who came to the lighthouse to watch his self-whipping ritual and later hangs himself. He succumbs to the darkness, or the World State’s cultural practices, despite his faithful attempts to “be purified and made good.” By taking what initially appears to be a straightforward symbol and manipulating its meaning, Huxley seems to suggest that, in a world built on the premises of suppression and control, claiming independence is an impossible task.