How is Helmholtz Watson different from other Alphas?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Helmholtz Watson, an Alpha plus, is, in the words of his superiors, a "little too able." While he and Bernard Marx are in many ways opposites, Marx being short and dark for an Alpha while Watson is powerfully built and handsome, they share a rare trait. Both are individuals in a society in which conformity is the hallmark: "What the two men shared was the knowledge that they were individuals."

While Marx has been painfully aware of his difference for a long time, Watson has only recently become cognizant of his situation. He realizes that sports, women and communal activities are not satisfying him in a deep way, and he begins to question what more he should be looking for. This is profoundly subversive in a society devoted to superficiality.

Because his excessive intelligence leads him to be far too interested in beauty, Watson is banished to an island. The Controller tells him that this is "paying for" being too interested in beauty, although the Controller had earlier suggested that Marx's banishment to an island was a reward rather than a punishment. The Controller asks Watson whether he would prefer a tropical or a more "bracing" island, and Watson asks to be somewhere cold, windy and rainy, as this will help his writing. Such a mindset is a repudiation of his society's emphasis on comfort, underscoring that Watson is a person apart. The agreement is that he will be sent to the Falklands. 

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mr. Helmholtz Watson displayed all physical characteristics expected of an Alpha plus. He was handsome, well built and powerful, with dark curly hair. Helmholtz was an engineering lecturer, wrote for the Hourly Radio and also composed scenes for feelies. He associated with Bernard Marx as a friend, having been brought together by mutual differences.

It was stated in the story that excesses and deficiencies during their development resulted in the knowledge of their individual self. They were aware of their individual nature, an aspect shunned and avoided in the new world. This knowledge brought them in sharp conflict with their society. In Bernard Marx, this situation occurred due to physical defects in his development. On the other hand, the situation for Helmholtz was as a result of mental excess. He was basically made far too smart for the normal Alpha plus individual. This confirmed that it was his mental abilities that differentiated him from other Alphas.

“Able,” was the verdict of his superiors. “Perhaps, (and they would shake their heads, would significantly lower their voices) “a little too able.”
Yes, a little too able; they were right. A mental excess had produced in Helmholtz Watson effects very similar to those which, in Bernard Marx, were the result of a physical defect.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this book, we are told that Bernard Marx is a little less than what you would expect Alphas to be.  He's too short and too dark.  His friend Helmholtz Watson is just exactly the opposite.  He is just a bit too good -- he stands out because he's better than the rest.

He's tall and good looking just like he is supposed to be, but he is also too smart.  That is what really gets him in trouble.  He's too smart so he thinks too much. As we are told in Chapter 4, towards the end

"Able," was the verdict of his superiors. "Perhaps, (and they would shake their heads, would significantly lower their voices) "a little too able."


That ends up getting him sent to Iceland.

htownz | Student
Helmholtz Watson is the opposite of Bernard Marx. He is tall and handsome and stands out because he is too smart.
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Brave New World

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