Brave New World

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Brave New World Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Helmholtz, John, and Bernard are brought to Mustapha Mond's study. Helmholtz is cheerful. Bernard is nervous and despairing. When Mustapha Mond enters, he shakes hands with all three men, and asks John if he likes civilization. John says no. In response, Mond quotes a line from Shakespeare. When John asks if he's read Shakespeare, he says he's one of the few men in the World State who have. He explains that Shakespeare is forbidden because they want people to consume new things, not old things. Anyway, he says, no one in the World State would understand Shakespeare. Tragedies demand social instability. And the World State has stability. John says the World State seems horrible to him. Mond cheerfully admits that actual happiness looks "squalid in comparison to the over-compensations for misery."
Chapters 16 and 17 of Brave New World are debates between John and Mond as to the merits of stability and happiness versus instability and personal freedom. What's interesting is that Mond doesn't deny the losses that are a necessary part of gaining stability. He freely admits that beautiful works of art like Shakespeare and even basic understanding of profound human emotions are entirely eliminated in a stable state. Nonetheless, it's clear that Mond, at least, thinks that the gain of happiness and stability outweigh the losses.
Themes
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
When John objects to the Bokanovsky Twins and caste system, Mond tells of an experiment in which the World State filled the island of Cyprus only with Alphas. Nobody wanted to do the menial work, and pretty soon the island descended into civil war. Mond says that conditioning and the caste system make people happy with what they do. They don't even want leisure—leisure only increases the chance to think and results in misery and increased soma consumption.
Mond's argument is that he's giving people what they want. They want happiness. They enjoy soma. If they have free time, they just use more soma. While John believes that the World State citizens have been conditioned to love their slavery, Mond is arguing that if you love your slavery, then it isn't slavery.
Themes
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Mond admits that both art and science have been sacrificed to the cause of stability. He reveals his own past as a physicist who started experimenting too deeply in science. As a result, Mond says he was almost faced with the same fate that awaits them: being sent to an island.
Mond's history as a physicist means he fully understands the truth and beauty that are sacrificed to stability and happiness.
Themes
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
Bernard falls to his knees and begs not to be sent to an island. Mond summons men to take Bernard to a different room and calm him with soma.
There's really no other way to put it: Bernard is an annoying wimp.
Themes
Individuality Theme Icon
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Mond reveals that islands are actually places where all the people who are too individual to be satisfied with life in the World State live. Helmholtz wonders why Mond didn't go to an island. Mond says he chose to become a Controller and promote happiness over science—happiness, he says, has produced the most stable society in human history.
Mond believes stability is more important than truth or beauty. John believes the opposite.
Themes
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
Mond asks Helmholtz what sort of island he'd like to live on. Helmholtz decides on an island with bad weather—he thinks it will help him write. Helmholtz leaves to check on Bernard.
Helmholtz chooses a place where he'll have to be inside, to face himself. He chooses a place that will force him to be an individual.
Themes
Individuality Theme Icon