Brave New World Brave New World question

Do you think Brave New World describes a valid utopia?
Marquess Marquess Jan 18, 2015 07:51PM
Huxley creates a world where everyone is happy. In one sense I can see how that describes a utopia. If the vast majority of people are happy up to the moment of their death then I think that might be one incarnation of an utopia.

But is conditioned happiness true happiness? I might go as far to say yes. As far as the average people are concerned they cannot perceive the difference between what John might consider true happiness and the happiness they get from soma or their conditioning. In Huxley's world happiness is natural and unavoidable. In our world, happiness comes and goes.

Brave New World doesn't describe a utopia, it is a distopia disguised as a utopia to make a point about what true happiness is. I think Huxley meant to show how unhappy would we be being "happy" all the time

M 25x33
Antonio Nodarse I would enjoy the opportunity to experience a society where my happiness is of the utmost importance.
Dec 13, 2015 09:36PM · flag
Shannon Antonio, but its NOT your happiness. Its manufactured. Its government controlled, planned and put into place. Its not YOUR happiness.
Dec 15, 2015 03:10PM · flag

I think this question and it's ramifications are the genius of this book.

Happiness is a state of mind, so do the means of achieving that state matter? In the book, happiness is an obvious, blatantly engineered and conditioned state.

But Huxley is also implicitly asking readers to look at their own world and their own happiness. We learn what "happiness" is from the world around us. In the 21st century, that is heavily consumer and wealth oriented. "Stuff" is the key to happiness, seems to be the message. And not just stuff, but a constant stream of new stuff.

The BNR is now, if not so blatently.

I'd live in BNW. The life is pretty much sex, drugs, rock 'n roll, which is what we aspire to and what we see as happiness. However, as Wouter said, happiness is a relative state, so people cannot be perpetually happy. They are, most of them, perpetually content though. Still, that does not sound utopian, does it?

Q: What's the perfect world?
A: Where we drown in Molly and bang six people everyday. Can't complain.

Don't think so.

I don't know if you've also read The Island by Huxley. There are interesting parallels between that 'utopia' and this 'dystopia', might answer your question better than people on Goodreads can :)

I had pretty much the same thought when I finished the book. After all, it's a perfect world, right? Okay, it may sound cooler if I say "no, I wouldn't want to live in a world with false senses of happiness" and such, but hey, that's pretty much where we live right now. The only difference is that in BNW you aren't sad at all, because you've been conditioned to live that way. Again, someone might argue that that's not really living, and it may actually seem like a paradox, but at the end of the day, the monotonous-stable-happy life is the best one to live in

BNW describes vacant empty lives of vacant empty people. The only one who has any sense of what it means to be human is "the savege" john and he is so disillusioned by the Brave New World he hangs himself. Huxley wasn't describing a Utopia he was describing a kind of meaningless state of existence not so different from consumption driven society we live in today. You know the one with increasing rates of suicide and alienation?

There are a few cracks in Brave New World's utopia. Foremost is sustainability. Is this sort of utopia really sustainable? I would venture that the world would be slowly destroyed by the constant production and consumption needed to sustain such a society. Second is abuse. Some of the conditioning used is rather brazenly abusive to the children receiving it, and much abusive behavior between the adults still hangs around beneath the facade of sunshine and happiness. Finally, the utopia is not all-inclusive. Although everyone is almost constantly in a state of near-perfect bliss, there are the few who are not. It is notable that these are the people who actually think. Furthermore, there are people who are not part of the society at all. I would call Brave New World a forced utopia--something like saying, "Be happy, whether you want to or not!"

Did you catch the fact that Mustapha Mond is unhappy because he has to always concern himself with happiness?

Huxley is a friggin genius

Alexandra (last edited Mar 20, 2015 08:51AM ) Mar 17, 2015 01:01AM   0 votes
Huxley's fabulous mind/books/wrtings make us think. Happiness -- as a concept for all -- does need to be relativised and the current state of happiness as shopping could not have been Huxley's idea. For me, happiness is largely being able to read and probe these wonderful minds.

“Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World.”

"Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability." from BNW

"Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life."
Omar Khayyam

"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions."
Dalai Lama

The main thing that i think leads to people talking about BNW as if it were relevent today, is the de-politicising of most people. In that respect, people don't tend to get too overly involved in who rules them and concentrate on enjoying themselves.

In terms of the "happiness" thing, as great as the book is, i have a slight niggle - I could understand the "lower castes" being easily passified with simple amusments and soma over and over again, but the cleverer orders would surely become intelectually frustrated and restless, as some of them were - ending up exiled or whatever, but i just don't think a rebellion of curiosity could be contained.

Interesting question. I think this is the sort of utopia that is closely related to the original idea of Utopia, by Thomas More. Basically, his utopia was total conformity, so as to prevent things like jealousy and poverty that lead to uglier things like war and revolution. The utopia he describes reminds me of this book because while technically the idea of "everyone gets exactly as much as everyone else, no more, no less" sounds fair, the reality was drab and devoid of the things that make people passionate. So, exactly like Brave New World. Except without the caste system.

For the life of me I couldn't decide. That is the beauty of this book. We assume that the island is a death sentence, but maybe it is just a place for people that don't like the system and don't want to participate in it. What better way for a Utopia to work than to have little islands of different philosophical/political leanings for people that just can't fit in to the main plan. The savage is also unhappy, but he was not happy when he had freedom either. His happiness therefore cannot be counted on as a barometer for measuring the rightness of society.

Nearly 50 years have past since I read BNW during my high school English IV class. I enjoyed all of your comments and wonderful insight to the characters and the intent of the author.
I think we can align many of the things we do today to the world that Huxley created. We can see ourselves taking soma each day as a part of our daily activities, or lack of activities before and after work. We have become the mindless workers; our identities are created from the jobs we have or the possessions we have accumulated. I was in a college course where everyone had to introduce themselves. I noticed that almost everyone began their introduction with the job they held so when it came my turn I chose to talk about the personal side of me.
In any case, as mentioned before, Huxley opens the door to encourage the reader to think. If we think enough we may discover that life is about the beauty of living.

I think that true happiness is a relative state. People who have experienced much bad luck will be more able to enjoy the small things and be more intensely happy.

The happiness in BNW is a constant state, with no ups and no downs. I think that, after a while, this constant happiness will fade away, so that higher dosages of soma will be needed to produce the same effect, whereas this is not necessary for 'natural' happiness.

Therefore, I think this conditioned happiness cannot be seen as true happiness, since it is 'chemically' produced and will become much like other addictions in the real world which give a false sense of happiness.

Apart from Bernard Marx and the so-called "Savage," John, the characters in Brave New World are neither happy nor unhappy because they are not fully human. They are constructed (gestated in beakers and nourished by blood-surrogate) and their minds are conditioned. Their respective conditioning programs are defined and delivered by a totalitarian system that perpetuates itself by manufacturing eminently serviceable semi-humans designed specifically to play certain roles and perform certain duties, and most definitely not to think or act, aspire or believe, imagine or desire beyond the parameters set for them. What looks like happiness is merely a superficial (and inevitable) response to pre-scripted (and carefully circumscribed) expectations being met. Soma, like any other chemical enhancement, is a kind of anesthetic that encourages delusion. What seems like a state of heightened pleasure is in fact a symptom of brain damage. Another Marx (Karl, of course) denigrated religion as the opiate of the masses. In Brave New World, the opiate is soma and religion has devolved to ancestor-worship of the inventor of assembly-line manufacturing: Henry Ford.

Bernard Marx is authentically unhappy because the mind-conditioning that was supposed to cancel his individualized humanity has failed. Having not been de-humanized, Bernard recognizes everyone around him as a semi-human who has been as effectively programmed, i.e., conditioned, as any computer. He struggles along as best he can, pretends to feel as they feel, do as they do, and tries to hide his anguish. For the others, the key point is that they have no choice but to be "happy" with their respective lots in this brave new world that they serve, essentially, as slaves.

If you perceive this world as a utopia, you are badly mis-reading the novel. If you feel you'd be happy as a conditioned semi-human whose life has been pre-scripted and whose free will has been annulled, then you are a victim of our diseased culture and its soul-killing fetishes for getting and spending, ostentatious self-display, and hedonistic self-indulgence.

The moral touchstone of Brave New World is John. The novel ends with his suicide to suggest that the only healthy response to being forced to live in an inhuman world is to refuse to live. If that isn't a dystopian vision, what is?

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