Discuss in detail the role of soma in Chapter 5.Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A form of the Latin word, somnus, meaning sleep, soma induces a feeling of contentment in the residents of the New World.  It is even served with their coffee as Henry and Lenina dine, lest the caffeine excite them too much.  After dinner, they enter what used to be Westminister Abbey, but is now a cabaret.  Because Henry and Lenina have taken soma before going to the night club, they do not notice the beauty of the night sky, an intended effect of the drug:

It was a night almost without clouds, moonless and starry; but of this on the whole depressing fact Lenina and Henry were fortunately unaware.

The State does not want anyone to pay attention to the beauty of Nature as it keeps people from consuming products and playing games such as Obstacle golf.  After their night at the cabaret, in which Henry and Lenina have danced in the "friendly world of soma-holiday, where everyone was "delightfully amusing," and there were no conflicts.  Having swallowed the second dose of soma, Lenina and Henry are in a drug-induced state in their room, "a quite impenetrable wall between the actual universe and their minds," as they engage in love-making, but Lenina still remembers her contraceptive devices because of her conditioning.

In Part II of Chapter 5, Bernard Marx attends a Solidarity Service which does not differ much from the night that Lenina has spent with Henry.  In this mock religious ceremony in which Huxley parodies evangelical revivals, twelve group members are present.  The President begins the service by making the sign of the "T"; soma  tablets and the "loving cup" of strawberry ice-cream soma is passed out in a mock communion.  As the soma begins to take effect, the congregation weaves and dances ritualistically as though something is about to happen.  [Here Huxley parodies revival meetings.]  Soon, however, the ritualistic movement becomes an orgy, and the people chant orgy-porgy as they pair off. After the service, a young woman asks Bernard Marx if he did not think the service wonderful.  Bernardl lies, saying that he thought it was wonderful, but he is empty, more isolated "by reason of his unreplenished emptiness, his dead satiety."

There is nothing of real human emotion in the New World; even the music is synthesized.  By taking soma regularly, people do not become discontent.  Only someone like Bernard, who is a little "different" senses that anything is missing in life.

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