Happiness in Brave New World: Quotes & Analysis

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and extensive experience working in the business world as Director of Marketing and Business Development at a financial advice firm.

In this lesson, we'll look at how happiness is achieved, how it is protected, and finally analyze a few quotes that show the importance of happiness to the World State as presented in the novel 'Brave New World'.

Role of Happiness

What is being happy worth to you? Is it worth doing a job you don't like so you can have extra money, or giving up something you want to make someone you love happy? Or is it worth giving up all of your individuality so someone can tell you that you're happy? In Brave New World, a 1936 novel by Aldous Huxley, that's the choice that humanity has made.

In Brave New World, the stability of society is largely dependent on the happiness of the population. To that end, happiness is regarded as the utmost priority for World Controller Mustapha Mond. If there is unhappiness, then the entire system will come crashing to a halt.

The society's obsession with happiness can come across as quite foreign to those of us who don't have official guarantees on happiness. Let's explore this concept further.

Brave New World cover
Brave New World cover

Achieved Happiness

The governing body, called the World State, is totally focused on the goal of increasing happiness. For starters, this is a society that highly encourages consumerism, so there is never a shortage of goods to purchase.

Along with that, everyone has a job that they have been conditioned for their entire life, meaning that unhappiness from work is unlikely. In fact, we learn that rocket mechanics are conditioned to only be happy when gyrating like they would at work.As the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning puts it, 'that is the secret of happiness and virtue--liking what you've got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny.'

Happiness is also achieved in people's social lives through the abolition of the family and the fact that sex is embraced as a source of happiness. Family is viewed as something that caused tension and stress.

Finally, in cases where someone still starts to feel down, there's always soma, the wonder drug that makes someone feel better instantly. After all, 'a gramme is better than a damn' is a refrain that is part of the public consciousness, just like 'a penny saved is a penny earned' is for us.

Protecting Happiness

The World State is in charge of protecting happiness and takes it very seriously. Anyone who rocks the boat or seems off is reported and potentially sent to an island. However, even at these islands they are given the chance to be with other interesting people, increasing their happiness.

However, a particularly telling moment occurs at the point where John and Helmholtz, two of the main protagonists, start a riot after disposing of the soma. John has just lost his mother to her soma addiction, and wants to rid society of the poison. Helmholtz is happy to feel something more than the usual canned happiness and jumps to help his friend.

The riot police show up and rather than be the sort of futuristic brutal police force you might expect, they convince most of the rioters to return by playing a speech that refers to everyone as friend, saying 'Why aren't you all being happy and good together?' and then: 'I do so want you to be good! Please, please be good' on repeat. That, combined with a cloud of soma, is enough to dispel the riot rather quickly.

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