Brave New World

Brave New World Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Bernard, the Savage, and Helmholtz are brought into Mustapha Mond’s study. Helmholtz is in good spirits, while the Savage browses through one of Ford’s books, and Bernard looks frightened and unhappy. Mond comes in and shakes hands with them all, addressing John. When John admits that he doesn’t much like civilization, Mond unexpectedly quotes Shakespeare. He explains that as the one who makes the laws, he’s allowed to break them, hence having read Shakespeare. Old things, he goes on—especially beautiful old things—are banned because they’re not useful, and there’s no good in attracting people to such things.
Interestingly, 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 outweighs the loss of freedom.
Themes
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Mond further explains that, today, nobody could understand a tragedy like Shakespeare’s Othello, because the world is stable—people get what they want, they never want what they can’t get, and so they’re happy. They don’t fear death, they’re ignorant of suffering, and they have no emotional entanglements. And, of course, there’s always soma.
Mond elaborates that great art is unintelligible to people who’ve never suffered and have never lacked for what they’ve wanted. To him, stability—being able to control people by forcing them to be happy with the superficialities of life—is worth the price of experiencing deeper emotions.
Themes
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Related Quotes
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. Predictably, none of the Alphas wanted to do the menial work, and before long, the island descended into civil war. The survivors asked the World Controllers to take over again. Mond says that conditioning and the caste system make people happy with what they do. People don't even want leisure—leisure only increases the chance to think, resulting 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 of it. While John believes that the World State citizens have been conditioned to love their slavery, Mond argues that if people love slavery, then it isn't really slavery.
Themes
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Mond explains that they’ve even stifled technological and scientific progress in order to keep people from excessive leisure, and hence to maintain stability. He admits that, in his youth, he was nearly exiled for conducting unauthorized science. At the mention of exile, Bernard starts groveling tearfully, begging not to be sent to Iceland. Mond orders that Bernard be carried out and tranquilized with soma.
Mond's history as a physicist means he personally understands the truth and beauty that are sacrificed to stability and happiness. If anything, this makes his knowing suppression of science even more monstrous. Bernard, for his part, continues to reveal himself as a coward.
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With Bernard out of the way, Mond points out that being exiled to an island is, for an individual, more of a reward than a punishment—after all, an exile gets to live among other interesting, unorthodox people. When Helmholtz asks why Mond doesn’t live on an island himself, Mond explains that he prefers the work of ensuring stability and happiness to the pursuit of truth. Science is interesting, but it’s also dangerous.
Mond has much in common with Helmholtz and the Savage. What sets him apart is that he values stability, and securing the superficial happiness stability requires, to the inherent risks of pursuing truth and beauty. In this, he differs sharply from Helmholtz and especially from the Savage.
Themes
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The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
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In Ford’s day, Mond muses, people valued knowledge above all and seemed to believe that scientific progress was unstoppable. Ford himself initiated a shift, “from truth and beauty to comfort and happiness.” This shift was demanded by mass production. Happiness sustains mass production; truth and beauty cannot. Following the trauma of the Nine Years’ War, people craved stability and were all too willing to sacrifice truth and beauty to get it. Mond then asks Helmholtz about his island preference—Helmholtz requests one with a bad climate, more suitable for writing—and then goes to check on Bernard.
Mond’s reflections perhaps come closest to mirroring Huxley’s thoughts about the relationships among truth, beauty, technology, and society. They’re a commentary on early 20th-century values: shifts in industrialization necessitated a corresponding shift fro3m preferring truth to craving happiness, of getting what one wants (that is, consumption). The Nine Years’ War also recalls the fatigue in the aftermath of the First World War and the compromises people made by, for example, preferring the stability of fascistic governments to greater freedom.
Themes
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Industrialism and Consumption Theme Icon