How are the use/abuse of drugs from Brave New World related to today's society?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Brave New World's author, Aldous Huxley, well knew himself the use of drugs for pleasure and for escape, having used them periodically and having had LSD shot into his veins as he was dying, in a departure from the world not unlike that of John the Savage's mother, Linda.

The Solidarity Service has its communion service of soma, in a ceremony marked by orgasmic pleasure:

...the silence of stretched expectancy, quivering and creeping with a galvanic life.

The President "reaches out his hand and suddenly a Voice,,,a supernatural Voice spoke from above their heads.,,,'Oh, Ford, Ford, Ford." Then, the congregation chants a parody of an old nursery rhyme Georgy Porgie--

(Georgie Porgie, Puddin' and Pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry,
When the boys came out to play
Georgie Porgie ran away )

"Orgy-porgy, Ford and fun,
Kiss the girls and make them One
Boys at one with girls at peace;
Orgy -porgy gives release."

This drug-induced orgy resembles the orgies that were popular after groups smoked marijuana and hashish begun in the 1960s. The drugs reduced or numbed inhibitions and people engaged in large group pleasures. The "Orgy-porgy" is Huxley's parody of the overly emotional revivals and tent meetings of evangelists.

Certainly, the use of soma as an escape from reality, or as a means of softening the edges and harshness of reality, is not dissimilar from the modern use of antidepressants or sleeping pills. For instance, when the raw humanity and conditions of the reservation disturb Lenina--while viewing the reservation, she thinks, “A gramme is better than a damn,” said Lenina mechanically from behind her hands. “I wish I had my soma!” Later, she tells Bernard that she wants to return to the New World; further, she does not understand why Bernard thinks about the limitations of their lives, wishing to be "free to be happy in some other way...not in everybody else's way." And, when he continues to talk of incomprehensible things to her, Lenina shuts off the world with a "soma holiday."

In the final chapter, as John desperately seeks to purge himself of the corruption of the synthetic society in which he is bound, he finds that he has become the object of ridicule and voyeurism as "arrivals" appear to witness the "fascinating horror" of John's self-flagellation and pain. Having become no more than an exhibition for curious watchers, and tortured by his own emotions, John takes soma and falls into a stupor. His awakening in the day brings him no relief from his agony, and he hangs himself. Reality is too much and he cannot abide by escaping all the time. In this way, John resembles the heroine user, who has lost hope in life, much like notable figures such as Philip Seymour Hoffman.