Regarding Brave New World, what does the following question mean: "Have we become a trivial culture preoccupied with entertainment?"

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That quote most definitely applies to Brave New World; however, the quote could be applied to other future, dystopian novels as well.  

In Brave New World, the society has been designed around hedonistic tendencies. Everybody is encouraged to always do what feels good and do it immediately.  That is why everybody seems to be rampantly promiscuous in their sexual habits. Huxley writes, “Every one belongs to every one else.”

Orgies are common and basically mandated.  The idea of a relationship with emotional attachments is completely foreign.  Bernard even tries to explain his desire for more than just a physical relationship with Lenina, and she just cannot understand it.  

Part of the reason that Lenina and other characters can’t understand the purpose for doing anything other than seeking out fun is because the entire society has been bred, conditioned, and brainwashed to pursue pleasure at all costs.  Through the process of “hypnopaedia” and “sleep-teaching” people in Brave New World are conditioned to seek pleasure and work for the good of the community.  If those two conditioning devices aren’t enough, a person can always get high on “soma” in order to reduce inhibitions.  Mustapha tells readers it is "euphoric, narcotic, pleasantly hallucinant.”  The drug ensures that people are always distracted from seeing that anything is wrong with the state of the world.  The people are essentially amusing themselves to death on a day-to-day basis.  Outside of work, to ensure a stable economy, the people are encouraged to have fun by spending money.  That’s all life is to people in the book.  It’s one big pursuit of trivial pleasures.  Take the promiscuity of the people as an example.  Sex is no longer something to be shared between two people in love.  It’s been reduced to a trivial activity that carries no meaning at all.  Presumably, the people will live this kind of life until they die.  They are essentially a population of people that have become preoccupied with amusing themselves to death through trivial pursuits.  A society that only participates in the trivial has let itself become an entirely trivial society as a consequence. There is no purpose, direction, or meaning to existence. 

Bradbury briefly explores this same concept through the character of Mildred Montag in Fahrenheit 451. She’s obsessed with watching the book’s version of television.  She is more interested in the fictional families and events that she sees on television than she is in real life.  When she is not watching those shows, she takes drugs to help her sleep and avoid spending too much conscious time in the real world.  In fact, without Montag calling in medical help, Mildred would have overdosed and died early in the book.  She really was amusing herself to death with trivial pursuits.  That is one big reason Montag no longer felt much of an emotional attachment to her.

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Brave New World, the Controller has made a conscious decision to give people what he calls happiness rather than to permit them to experience their full humanity, which would involve allowing the experience of negative emotions and suffering. Conformity is more important than individualism, and, in fact, individualism is treated as a problem. People are conditioned to want to consume as many goods as possible to keep the factories and the economy going strong. What this leads to is a trivial culture preoccupied with entertainment. A trivial culture focuses on the trivial or unimportant aspects of life, such as buying a new green plastic belt or going to a mindless love drama. This is what people care about in the novel. They are preoccupied with entertainment, meaning that what matters most to them is staying amused. When they are not working, people want, for example, to be playing complicated games with lots of equipment, attending an orgy or taking soma. They want to be entertained, which means letting someone else do the thinking while they enjoy shallow, escapist pleasures that don't inspire them to think about the harder questions of life. Some would say our own culture has the same problem, more preoccupied with celebrities and mindless entertainment (cat videos) than tackling the bigger problems that face us or thinking about issues of substance or meaning.

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Brave New World

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