How does Bernard feel during and after the service in Chapter Five?

Expert Answers
teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bernard, an Alpha plus, is running late and has to rush to the Solidarity Service in chapter five. When he arrives, he is relieved not to be the last one there, which underlines how important conformity is in this culture. However, his relief is quickly crushed as he has to admit, to the "astonishment" of the woman sitting next to him, that he had played neither of his society's popular games, Obstacle or Electro-Magnetic golf, that afternoon.

The Solidarity Service begins as a group religious ritual in which music and drumbeats, as well as a recorded voice, whip the group of twelve into a frenzy in which they are supposed to collectively feel the presence of the "Greater Being" as they merge into oneness. This is followed by a group orgy. During the wholly religious part of the ceremony, Bernard pretends to hear the approach of the Greater Being, but actually experiences nothing. Afterwards, the orgy over, a woman at the service, named Fifi, who had "the calm ecstasy of achieved consummation, the peace, not of mere vacant satiety and nothingness, but of balanced life, of energies at rest and in equilibrium," asks Bernard if he found it "wonderful." Again, he lies and agrees the experience was wonderful. In reality, 

He was as miserably isolated now as he had been when the service began—more isolated by reason of his unreplenished emptiness, his dead satiety. Separate and unatoned, while the others were being fused into the Greater Being; alone even in Morgana’s embrace—much more alone, indeed, more hopelessly himself than he had ever been in his life before. He had emerged from that crimson twilight into the common electric glare with a self-consciousness intensified to the pitch of agony.

In a world in which conformity and group solidarity are the bedrock values, the hyper-intelligent Bernard's inability to experience community in this chapter foreshadows his eventual exile from the center of his community to an island where he will be better able to express his culturally destabilizing individuality.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bernard rushed to the Solidarity Service and, fortunately, arrived with three spaces unoccupied. However, he did not check the seating arrangement and found himself seated in between two ladies he was not attracted to. For him, the meeting was already off to a bad start.

"A good beginning for a Solidarity Service,” thought Bernard miserably, and foresaw for himself yet another failure to achieve atonement.

When the ritual, occasioned with singing and the taking of soma began, Bernard only seemed to play along with the rest of the members. People in the meeting felt the presence of the Greater Being and acknowledged their experience. However, Bernard felt nothing and was forced to pretend to perceive the presence of the Greater Being. He felt estranged from the rest of the members whose experience was genuine.

Feeling that it was time for him to do something, Bernard also jumped up and shouted: “I hear him; He’s coming.” But it wasn’t true. He heard nothing and, for him, nobody was coming.

After the event, Fifi Bradlaugh sought to know if the experience was breathtaking for Bernard as it was for her. Bernard was forced to lie in order to concur with Fifi. He felt even more isolated and miserable in that instance.

“Yes, I thought it was wonderful,” he lied and looked away; the sight of her transfigured face was at once an accusation and an ironical reminder of his own separateness. He was as miserably isolated now as he had been when the service began—more isolated by reason of his unreplenished emptiness, his dead satiety."

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During and after the Solidarity Service, Bernard feels alienated, isolated and fake.

He does not feel the same kind of excitement that other people seem to feel during the service.  All Bernard can do is fake it during the service.  He dances and yells, he claims that he can hear the "Greater Being" coming even though he can't really.

After the service, he compares how he feels with how Fifi Bradlaugh looks.  She looks as if she is completely satisfied and replenished.  He, on the other hand, just feels isolated from his society.