Brave New World

Brave New World Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The Savage, alone with Mond, asks if anything else, besides art and science, has to be sacrificed to happiness. Mond answers that religion does, and he shows the Savage some old, forbidden books about God, including the Bible. Mond reads from a passage written by Cardinal Newman, which argues that people move toward religion as they age, because the distractions of youth fall away. In the World State, youthful distractions are kept coming until the end of people’s lives, ensuring that society has no need for God. It’s not that Mond doesn’t believe there’s a God; he just believes that civilization must choose between happiness and God.
John Henry Newman was an important Roman Catholic cardinal and theologian in the 19th century. But his ideas about humanity’s natural religious impulses have been rendered obsolete by the World State, which eliminates old age by ensuring that the "distractions of youth" never cease.
Themes
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Industrialism and Consumption Theme Icon
Mond goes on to argue that people are conditioned to believe in God, and that by organizing society such that people are never alone and that indulgent vices are risk-free, the World State has eliminated the need for God. In fact, there’s never a need for a person to endure anything unpleasant, like self-denial or chastity. That’s because chastity goes hand-in-hand with passion, and passion leads to instability. What’s more, the World State doesn’t need virtues like nobility or heroism; it allows no opportunities (like war or temptation) for the exercise of such virtues. He even describes soma as “Christianity without tears”—the drug smooths over discord and suffering, without requiring any moral effort on the user’s part.
Both opportunities for suffering and virtue are only made possible within a society that’s subject to instability. Mond believes that stability is more important than any ennobling human virtues. This outlook is his justification for totalitarianism.
Themes
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Industrialism and Consumption Theme Icon
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The Savage insists that the “tears” are necessary, and that there is value in living dangerously. Mond concurs that artificial passion is good for health, but that it can be applied chemically, without inconveniences. The Savage replies that he wants the inconveniences—he wants God, poetry, freedom, goodness, sin. In short, Mond responds, the Savage is asking for the right to be unhappy and to suffer. The Savage agrees. Mond just shrugs and says he’s welcome to it.
Mond and John disagree about the relationship between the individual and society. Mond believes society is preeminent, and that the individual can be molded and shaped to best serve society. This is, essentially, the concept of mass production applied to all human society. John, however, believes the individual is preeminent and has rights that society must not transgress. These rights necessarily expose people to unhappiness and pain as well as joy and beauty. To him, freedom is worth that price.
Themes
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
Related Quotes