All of World State society can be described as an effort to eliminate the individual from society. That doesn't mean the elimination of all people—it means the conditioning of those people so that they don't really think of themselves as individuals. Individualism, which encompasses an awareness of one's own opinions and abilities, the joys of personal relationship, and the accompanying sorrows of loneliness and isolation, is suppressed as aggressively as possible by the World State in order to maintain stability. But these safeguards aren't enough for all the citizens of the World State, and they become aware of their individuality, which suggests that human individuality is irrepressible. But through the various triumphs and downfalls of his characters, Huxley argues that even when individuality resists external pressures, it won’t thrive in a society that views individuals as dispensable and dangerous.
Both the Director and Mustapha Mond admit that human individuality is dispensable within their system. The difference is that Mond sees the reality and even the value of individuality, but willingly sacrifices it for the sake of an orderly State. When the Director reprimands Bernard for unorthodoxy, he does so on the grounds that individuality undermines State stability: “We can make a new [individual] with the greatest ease […] Unorthodoxy threatens more than the life of a mere individual; it strikes at Society itself.” Yet perhaps more sinister is Mond’s admission that, while he had the option of being sent to an island where he could pursue “unorthodox” science to his heart’s content, he ultimately preferred to be made a World Controller, in charge of determining the happiness of society at large. He recognizes that individuality is a real, valuable thing, yet he prefers suppressing people’s individuality (while having the privilege to privately indulge his own by reading Shakespeare) in order to keep people comfortable, happy, and complacent. While both men see individuality as a threat to be controlled, neither denies the existence of the individual as such.
Both Bernard and his friend Helmholtz are examples of citizens wrestling with their awareness of their individuality. The difference between the two is that, for Bernard, individuality is something rather forced upon him by his un-Alpha-like physical traits, and he responds to these by resisting aspects of the World State’s consumerist and hedonistic culture. Helmholtz, meanwhile, is truly superior in his abilities and realizes that the constraints of Society won’t let him fully exercise those abilities: “A mental excess had produced in Helmholtz Watson effects very similar to those which, in Bernard Marx, were the result of a physical defect […] That which had made Helmholtz so uncomfortably aware of being himself and all alone was too much ability. What the two men shared was the knowledge that they were individuals.” Despite his prowess at Escalator Squash, his hundreds of lovers, and his social standing, Helmholtz “was interested in something else. But in what?” Helmholtz makes a useful contrast with Bernard, because Helmholtz is such a standout example of “excellence” by World State standards. By those standards, Helmholtz should be a model of happiness, but instead, he’s restless with the realization that his success might actually be a form of mediocrity. Exploring his potential for more involves acknowledging his individuality, and the inability of the State to facilitate that individuality.
Bernard, on the other hand, accepts his individuality uneasily; he experiences it as something that sets him uncomfortably at odds with his society, and when he has the chance to toss it aside for the sake of acceptance, he does so. After his association with John wins him popularity, “Success went fizzily to Bernard’s head, and in the process completely reconciled him […] to a world which, up till then, he had found very unsatisfactory. In so far as it recognized him as important, the order of things was good.” He continues to “parade a carping unorthodoxy” as long as people pay at least superficial attention to him, but it’s mostly a show. In other words, Bernard is happy to be an individual as long as it doesn’t cost him anything. When Mustapha Mond threatens to send him to Iceland for his unorthodoxy, he quickly dissolves into cowardly groveling, showing that, despite his criticisms, he really does want to remain within the outward safety Society provides.
The Savage (John) is the ultimate outsider in the novel. Even in his accidental upbringing on the Savage Reservation, he never truly belonged—excluded from native rituals and secretly studying Shakespeare. When he visits the “brave new world,” he belongs even less, because his deep yearnings, his knowledge, and his sense of morality find no sympathy among those who outwardly look more like him. In the end, though, even his outsider status doesn’t survive—when he tries to live in solitude, people are drawn to the spectacle of his individuality, and he finally succumbs to a mob mentality himself. Huxley thus suggests that individuality can’t flourish in a world that targets it as a threat to its own existence.
Individuality Quotes in Brave New World
Community, Identity, Stability.
Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I'm so glad I'm a Beta.
“Till at last the child's mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child's mind. And not the child's mind only. The adult's mind too—all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides—made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions... Suggestions from the State.”
“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,
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.”
“The greater a man's talents, the greater his power to lead astray. It is better that one should suffer than that many should be corrupted. Consider the matter dispassionately, Mr. Foster, and you will see that no offence is so heinous as unorthodoxy of behavior. Murder kills only the individual—and, after all, what is an individual?”
“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.”
"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.
You've got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art.
“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.”
"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.”