In Brave New World, how can soma be compared with mood drugs available in our culture, including both common legal drugs (such as tobacco and alcohol),illegal drugs, and many prescription drugs?...

In Brave New World, how can soma be compared with mood drugs available in our culture, including both common legal drugs (such as tobacco and alcohol),illegal drugs, and many prescription drugs? (Consider whether the way they are advertised is much different from the World State's promotion of soma use.)

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Soma reminds readers of Sominex, a sleeping pill that does contain some hypnotic properties; this was a popular sleeping pill around the time of the writing of Brave New World. Certainly, when Lenina takes a good dose, she sleeps, and after Linda returns to the New World, she sleeps the final sleep after taking too much. Certainly, it is used to control the Deltas when they become agitated after John rages at them when they curiously herd around Linda and stare uncomprehendingly as she dies. Another drug that resembles soma in higher doses is chlorpromazine (generic name) or Thorazine. Thorazine has been used in higher doses to control pyschotic prison inmates as they will then be completely subdued, as the Deltas were in the hospital situation. Curiously, the author Aldous Huxley himself used LSD in the 1960's, even having it injected into him as he died, so, perhaps, soma can be somewhat likened to this hallucinogenic drug as Lenina takes "a holiday" to escape "the horrors" of the Malpais Reservation and its primitive conditions and people. "I take a gramme and I am," she tells Bernard. In Chapter 9 Lenina swllows six half-gramme tablets, and "embark[s] for lunar eternity. It would be eighteen hours at the least before she was in time again." 

In contemporary times, people take recreational drugs, drugs for anxiety, depression, and pain. Perhaps, like John the Savage, the world becomes, as William Wordsworth wrote,"too much with" them. At any rate, drugs control emotions, whether they are taken voluntarily or are forced on them. Some parents who do not want their children to be unhappy, put them on anti-depressants. This is not examining the cause of the children's depression, but simply alleviating it, just a soma merely alleviates feeling. In his desperation in the final chapters, John can no longer bear this denatured New World; feeling himself dehumanized by the crowds that watch him as though he is an experiment, John so bitterly misses nature and solitude in the other world of "truer-than-truth." He becomes enraged when one of the men spying on him says, "Evil's an unreality if you take a couple of grammes," and calls out menancingly to him.  When John can no longer find any reality, he dies.

In many ways, John symbolizes man the people who have been denied themselves those things that nurture the soul. Much like the residents of the New World, some people trod in a subconscious state.  They are controlled by alcohol or drugs; their lives are no longer theirs, either, as they have relinquished any freedom that they have possessed. 

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