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Barron's Booknotes-Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
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CHAPTER SIXTEEN

This chapter begins the final climax of Brave New World, which continues into Chapter 17. The friends who can't accept the system confront the man who speaks for the system-the Controller, Mustapha Mond. As usual, John and Helmholtz speak their minds, and so does the Controller, as usual, only Bernard worries about the "unpleasant realities of the situation."

The Controller knows Shakespeare, it turns out-knowledge forbidden to the ordinary elite. He who makes the laws is free to break the laws, he says. Huxley wants to remind you that many real-life rulers have taken the same attitude.

The Controller explains that Shakespeare is forbidden both because it's old and beautiful, qualities that might make people turn against the synthetic beauty of the brave new world, and because the people wouldn't understand it. In the new world, there can be no great art because it's impossible to have both happiness and high art at the same time; "you can't make tragedies without social instability." This returns the scene (and you) to the basic theme of the book, the need for stability.

The Controller acknowledges that stability has none of the glamour or picturesque quality of a fight against misfortune or a struggle against temptation. He says happiness and contentment are worth the loss. Do you think Huxley agrees? Or is he saying that that fight, that struggle, is necessary for a truly good life? The chapter doesn't tell you what he thinks; you have to decide the issue for yourself.

The Controller also explains why society cannot function with nothing but Alphas-they won't do the dirty work, the work Epsilons like doing. The Controllers once tried to create an experimental society composed only of Alphas, and it led to a civil war that killed 19,000 of the 22,000 discontented Alphas. The lower castes, he says, find happiness in their work, happiness that guarantees stability.


NOTE:

Here you see that the brave new world has stifled not only art and religion but also the science that first gave it the tools of control and that it still pretends to worship. Keeping the populace stable prevents this society from using most of its scientific knowledge. If it did use this knowledge, science would produce inventions that would reduce the need for Delta and Epsilon labor; the lower castes would then become unhappy and threaten stability. Mustapha Mond knows the tragedy of this better than anyone else, because he was a first-class scientist who gave up science to be a ruler-a ruler of a society that constantly invokes the name of science. Huxley was making fun of English and American society; in 1931, he couldn't have known how well he was describing the future development of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, which pretended to worship science but actually crippled it.

The Controller has to deal with the three friends, who in his terms are dissidents, like the people in the Soviet Union whom the newspapers call dissidents-people who can't accept the wrongs they see in their society. He sends Bernard to Iceland and Helmholtz to the Falkland Islands. Bernard objects, pathetically; Helmholtz doesn't, because he accepts the Controller's notion that a small island, distant from the metropolis, is the right place for people who are too individual to fit into community life in this Utopia. England is an island, of course, but it's clearly too large, too central, and too highly populated to be a good place for unorthodox individuals. Huxley's love of and fantasy about islands, signaled here, later inspired his novel of a good Utopia, Island.

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Barron's Booknotes-Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
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