Brave New World

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Themes and Colors
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Industrialism and Consumption Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Brave New World, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon

If you gave someone the choice between getting what they wanted and not getting what they wanted, they'd choose getting what they wanted every time. This satisfaction of desire, the person would believe, would make them happy. In order to maintain its stability, the World State in Brave New World ensures that all its citizens get exactly what they want all the time. In other words, the World State is designed to make people happy. This universal "happiness" is achieved in three ways: 1) The state uses biological science and psychological conditioning to make sure that each citizen is not only suited to its job and role but actually prefers that role to anything else, and therefore doesn't want anything he or she can't have; 2) Through the promotion of promiscuous sex as virtuous and the elimination of families or any long-term relationship of any sort, the government ensures that no one will ever face intense and unreciprocated emotional or sexual desire; 3) Whatever sadness slips through the cracks can be brushed away by using soma, a drug with no side-effects that gives the user a pleasant high and makes all worries dissolve away. All three methods are successful: in the World State, almost everybody really does seem to be happy all of the time.

But through Bernard, Helmholtz, the Savage, and even Mustapha Mond, Brave New World poses the question: at what cost does this happiness come? What gets lost when every one of an individual's desires is immediately met? The novel's answer is that the satisfaction of every desire creates a superficial and infantile happiness that creates stability by eliminating deep thought, new ideas, and strong passions. Without ideas or passions, mankind loses the possibility of the more significant fulfillments provided by the pursuit of truth in art and science, or the pursuit of love and understanding with another person. Brave New World argues that happiness and stability are fool's gold, making adults into infants who do not care about truth or progress.

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The Cost of Happiness ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of The Cost of Happiness appears in each chapter of Brave New World. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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The Cost of Happiness Quotes in Brave New World

Below you will find the important quotes in Brave New World related to the theme of The Cost of Happiness.
Chapter 1 Quotes
And that ... is the secret of happiness and virtue—liking what you've got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.
Related Characters: The Director (Thomas) (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

The Director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre has explained how babies are created; he has told the students on the tour that Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons are "hatched" by forcing fertilized eggs to divide into many pairs of identical wins. He then describes how the different fetuses are chemically manipulated in order to encourage them to enjoy the lifestyle they will be assigned to, claiming that this is because "the secret of happiness and virtue [is] liking what you've got to do." Like much World State ideology, on the surface this statement seems persuasive. Common sense suggests that enjoying life is indeed the secret of happiness, and that happy, satisfied people are more likely to be virtuous.

However, in the context of the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, the Director's words take on a seriously sinister tone. As he has demonstrated to the students, the government preconditions people to enjoy their lives as a method of control. Although this may result in happy citizens, their happiness comes at the expense of freedom––a fact confirmed by the Director's comment about their "unescapable social destiny." This detail in turn calls into question what the Director means by "virtue." Does "virtue" refer to morality, or is it simply another way of describing a repressed and controlled society?


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Chapter 5 Quotes
Ford, we are twelve; oh make us one,
Like drops within the Social River;
Oh, make us now together run
As swiftly as thy shining Flivver.
Come, Greater Being, Social Friend,
Annihilating Twelve-in-One!
We long to die, for when we end,
Our larger life has but begun.
Feel how the Greater Being comes!
Rejoice and, in rejoicings, die!
Melt in the music of the drums!
For I am you and you are I.
Orgy-porgy, Ford and fun,
Kiss the girls and make them One.
Boys at One with girls at peace;
Orgy-porgy gives release."
Related Symbols: Ford
Page Number: 81-84
Explanation and Analysis:

Bernard has gone to his Solidarity Meeting, an event in which the members of a twelve-person "solidarity group" drink soma and chant "Solidarity Hymns" designed to make them forget their individual identities and feel close to the "Greater Being" and, ultimately, participate in a group orgy. The words of the Solidarity Hymn convey the manner in which the loss of individuality, described in terms of individual death, are elevated in the World State to a moral and spiritual imperative. The hymn mixes the styles of religious music, folklore, commercial advertising, and nursery-rhyme, for example by pairing the phrases "Like drops within the Social River" and "As swiftly as thy shining Flivver" ("Flivver" was a slang nickname for a Model T Ford).

The blending of these different styles is bizarre and disorientating, suggesting there is something distinctly unnatural and perverse about the culture of the world depicted in the novel. By training them to worship Henry Ford and ritualistically indulge in drugs and group sex, the World State has purposely caused itscitizens to lose touch with the aspects of life that are truly meaningful: both love and loneliness, success and struggle, etc. Instead, the citizens are like children: focused only on instant gratification, with every desire, spiritual or physical, met by soma or easy meaningless sex.

Chapter 6 Quotes
A gramme in time saves nine.
Related Characters: Lenina Crowne (speaker)
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

Lenina has reflected on how strange she finds Bernard Marx; he doesn't enjoy activities such as electro-magnetic golf, preferring simple pursuits such as going for a walk. They travel to Amsterdam for a women's wrestling tournament, and in between matches go to an ice cream soma bar with "dozens" of Lenina's friends. Lenina tries to persuade Bernard to eat a soma-infused raspberry sundae by telling him "A gramme in time saves nine," but he refuses. Lenina's advice is an adaptation of the adage "A stitch in time saves nine," meaning if you solve a problem straight away it will be easier than if you put it off until later.

Lenina's version of the adage suggests that taking soma is a good solution to life's problems; however, in reality it is the opposite. Taking soma doesn't change or solve anything––instead, it just makes people forget their troubles, thus putting off problem-solving indefinitely. This attitude reflects the widespread addiction to immediate satisfaction to which all the characters in the novel are conditioned. Even Lenina's use of this phrase itself represents a kind of short-circuited thinking. Unlike Bernard, who reflects on issues using logic, Lenina simply regurgitates cliches she has learned during hypnopaedia. This explains why she finds Bernard odd, yet is not able to comprehend the reason behind his unconventional behavior.

Chapter 12 Quotes
Why was [Shakespeare] such a marvellous propaganda technician? Because he had so many insane, excruciating things to get excited about. You've got to be hurt and upset; otherwise you can't think of the really good, penetrating X-rayish phrases.
Related Characters: Helmholtz Watson (speaker)
Related Symbols: Shakespeare
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

Bernard has unsuccessfully tried to throw a party to show off John the Savage, but John refused to leave his room and appear at the event. Meanwhile, Helmholtz's students have reported him to the government for writing a poem about being alone. In this passage, during the party, John and Helmholtz discuss Shakespeare; at first, Helmholtz is unable to get over how ridiculous he finds Romeo and Juliet, but then undergoes a moment of realization during which his evaluation of the play changes. While it seems strange to Helmholtz for anyone to be as "hurt and upset" as the characters in Romeo and Juliet, he begins to trace the connection between these painful feelings and the existence of great works of art. Indeed, he realizes, if people remain in a state of constance satisfaction and emotional satiety, they cannot create anything of real value.

Note that even as Helmholtz arrives at this subversive realization, he cannot help but frame it in terms particular to his conditioned mindset; Shakespeare is not a playwright but a "propaganda technician," and his writing is not insightful but "X-rayish." Huxley once again explores the boundary of just how far human thought can be controlled, and to what extent people are able to remain critical of the world into which they are born.

Chapter 13 Quotes
Put your arms around me...Hug me till you drug me, honey...Kiss me till I'm in a coma. Hug me honey, snuggly...
Related Characters: Lenina Crowne (speaker)
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

Lenina has grown more and more in love with John the Savage, a fact that makes her friends suspicious, as it is antithetical to World State conditioning to have such strong feelings and to love only one person. At his house, the Savage confesses he loves Lenina, who is thrilled; however, when he proposes marriage, Lenina dismisses this as absurd and simply removes her clothes while singing seductively to him. The words of Lenina's song highlight the connection that the World State has created between sexual desire and the desire for the annihilation of individual identity. Intimacy is depicted as a kind of drug ("hug me till you drug me"), and Lenina seems to crave sex as a way of losing her sense of self and slipping out of consciousness.

The lyrics of the song are reminiscent of the style popular in the 1930s, when Brave New World was written. During this era, the still relatively new genre of vocal jazz combined romantic ballads, sexual innuendo, and childlike nonsense words to create songs about love, desire, and intimacy. Although the words of Lenina's song seem fairly innocent by today's standards, remember that singing explicitly about sex was still quite new when Huxley was writing, and thus would have been far more striking to readers at the time.

Chapter 15 Quotes
"Free, free!" the Savage shouted, and with one hand continued to throw the soma into the area while, with the other, he punched the indistinguishable faces of his assailants. "Free!" And suddenly there was Helmholtz at his side–"Good old Helmholtz!"—also punching—"Men at last!"—and in the interval also throwing the poison out by handfuls through the open window. "Yes, men! men!" and there was no more poison left. He picked up the cash-box and showed them its black emptiness. "You're free!"
Howling, the Deltas charged with a redoubled fury.
Related Characters: John (the Savage) (speaker), Helmholtz Watson
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:

John the Savage's mother, Linda, has died, and the Savage is distraught. At the hospital where he had come to see his mother, the Savage has encountered Delta twins being given soma. Convinced that soma caused his mother's death (his mother, on returning from the reservation, did just basically drug herself into a constant stupor), the Savage shouts at the Deltas not to take the soma, and throws the drug out of the window. This causes a riot, and when Helmholtz arrives, he and the Savage fight off the enraged Deltas, all while gleefully exclaiming that they are finally "free" and "men at last." Once again, the Savage's actions call into question the binary between civilized and uncivilized behavior. While physically attacking others at random would conventionally be considered a wild, animalistic act, in this case it makes the Savage and Helmholtz "men."

The implication of this is that what truly makes a person human is the possession of free will and individual identity. Although Helmholtz and the Savage are engaging in a riot, at least they are doing so through their own agency, rebelling against the conditioning and expectations of the World State. Similarly, they claim that discarding the soma makes the Deltas "free," meaning free from the paralyzing grip of addiction. However, as the Delta's "redoubled fury" shows, the World State's conditioning is so powerful that not all people embrace this "freedom" with the same enthusiasm as Helmholtz and the Savage.

Chapter 16 Quotes
The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get... And if anything should go wrong, there's soma.
Related Characters: Mustapha Mond (speaker)
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:

Following the riot at the hospital, Helmholtz, Bernard, and John the Savage have been arrested and brought to Mustapha Mond's study. Mond has asked John if he likes civilization; John says he doesn't, and this sparks a lengthy discussion between the two men about the nature of the world.

In this passage, Mond speaks approvingly of the instant-gratification, contentment, and stability of the society created by the World State. Note that everything Mond says in this passage is objectively true; preconditioned to love their lives, the citizens of the World State are indeed happy, and the world is stable. However, the events of the novel call into question the cost of this happiness and stability. Does happiness still retain the same value if it is artificially produced, not freely chosen, and never contrasted with negative emotions?

You've got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art.
Related Characters: Mustapha Mond (speaker)
Related Symbols: Shakespeare
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:

During his conversation with John the Savage, Mustapha Mond has revealed that he is one of the few people in the World State who has read Shakespeare. Mond has laughed at John for expecting the Deltas to "understand" Shakespeare's playOthello; when John insists that Shakespeare is better than the "feelies," Mond concedes that this is true, but that sacrificing high art is the price that must be paid for general happiness.

This exchange makes explicit one of the major themes of the novel: that there is a direct connection between freedom, suffering, and "high art." While Mond does not deny this connection, he believes that high art is less important than happiness and stability, and thus reasons that it is preferable to live in a world without it.

Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over-compensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.
Related Characters: Mustapha Mond (speaker)
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

Having listened to Mustapha Mond explain that the World State has sacrificed high art for the sake of happiness and stability, John concludes that this seems "horrible" to him. Mond responds that this makes sense, as "actual happiness" and stability are less superficially appealing than suffering, temptation, and passion. He characterizes these strong emotions––and the individual freedom and agency that creates them––as glamorous, with the implication that this glamor is misleading. Mond's logic in this passage is surprising, as in many ways it is the World State that appears to have the greater glamor, "picturesqueness," and superficial appeal. After all, the World State is filled with beautiful people, spectacular technology, and infinite entertainment.

This apparent paradox could be interpreted in multiple ways. Perhaps Mond is simply reversing criticism of the World State as a rhetorical strategy––by arguing that the World State creates "actual happiness" as opposed to superficial charm, he defeats the objection that the World State is a false utopia. On the other hand, there might actually be some truth in Mond's words. As he points out, it is easy to romanticize the struggle created by "a good fight against misfortune"; however, many would argue that the actual experience of misfortune cannot ever be seen as a good thing. And the World State, while having sacrificed individuals, has also eliminated such things as war, poverty, illness, and the untold misery those things create.

Chapter 17 Quotes
There's always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears-that's what soma is.
Related Characters: Mustapha Mond (speaker)
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

John has asked Mustapha Mond if anything else in addition to science and "high art" has been sacrificed in order to create stability and happiness. Mond has responded that religion has also been sacrificed, as there is no place for religion in "civilization." Under Mond's interpretation, religion used to be important because it helped people find solace, forgiveness, and connection to others; however, citizens of the World State feel all of these things anyway due to their conditioning and through the use of soma. Indeed, in this passage Mond draws a direct parallel between religion and soma, arguing that they have the same function. This reflects the famous statement by Karl Marx that "religion is the opiate of the masses."

Mond's nonchalant dismissal of religion suggests that his understanding of the role of religion is rather narrow. While it is true that practices such as group sex and taking soma encourage feelings of peace and solidarity, many would argue that these emotions lose meaning when they are produced artificially. Indeed, throughout the novel the interpersonal connections between citizens of the World State are shown to be superficial and hollow. Although the World State creates mass happiness and stability, these do not seem to be a legitimate replacement for religious or moral virtue. Interestingly, this tension echoes a longstanding debate within religious communities themselves over whether faith and morality are only meaningful if they are freely chosen.

"In fact', said Mustapha Mond, 'you're claiming the right to be unhappy.'
'All right then,' said the Savage defiantly, 'I'm claiming the right to be unhappy.'
Related Characters: John (the Savage) (speaker), Mustapha Mond (speaker)
Related Symbols: Shakespeare
Page Number: 240
Explanation and Analysis:

Mustapha Mond has conceded that it is necessary for people to occasionally experience negative emotions, and explained that this is why the World State forces citizens to undergo Violent Passion Surrogate, or V.P.S., once per month. He argues that this is a way to reap the benefits of "fear and rage... without any of the inconveniences." John responds that he wants the inconveniences, and Mond concludes that John is "claiming the right to be unhappy." This exchange contains the key philosophical question raised by the novel. For John, the "right to be unhappy" gives life meaning; while the citizens of the World State are happy, to John it is far better to be unhappy, as long as one retains one's individual identity and freedom.

Although Mustapha Mond's contrasting view is shown to be somewhat appealing and persuasive, this is undermined by Mond's powerful and unique position within society. As a former scientist who has had access to "high art" such as Shakespeare, Mond is able to retain hisindividual identity and exercise rational thought and choice, all while maintaining power and authority over the masses. While Mond is confident that life under the World State is preferable for everyone, the agitation and dissatisfaction shown by characters such as Bernard and Helmholtz suggests that Mond is perhaps mistaken. The example of John indicates that, given the choice, it seems that most (unconditioned) people would choose "the right to be unhappy" over being controlled and conditioned into happiness.