What Happens To Citizens Of The World State When They Die
In Brave New World, what happens to dead bodies in the World State?
Citizens of the World State are cremated at death. Their bodies are not considered sacred in any way, and there are no ceremonies to mark their passage from this life. There is no mourning or grieving for the dead. Corpses are recycled after cremation into plant fertilizer in a pragmatic and matter-of-fact way.
Children are conditioned from a very early age not to fear death. In fact, they are trained to associate it with positive experiences. They are given candy and desirable toys when they visit the Hospital for the Dying twice a week. We learn that:
" . . . Death conditioning begins at eighteen months. Every tot spends two mornings a week in a Hospital for the Dying. All the best toys are kept there, and they get chocolate cream on death days. They learn to take dying as a matter of course.”
“Like any other physiological process,” put in the Head Mistress professionally.
Likewise, the Slough Crematorium is lit up with floodlights as a prominent landmark. It is not hidden or treated as fearful:
Following its southeasterly course across the dark plain their eyes were drawn to the majestic buildings of the Slough Crematorium. For the safety of night-flying planes, its four tall chimneys were flood-lighted and tipped with crimson danger signals. It was a landmark.
When John the Savage registers grief and anguish at the death of Linda, his mother, the nurse in the Hospital for the Dying thinks this is outrageous and abnormal behavior. She is especially worried that John will disrupt the conditioning of the visiting children. She thinks the following as she witnesses his behavior:
Undoing all their wholesome death-conditioning with this disgusting outcry—as though death were something terrible, as though any one mattered as much as all that!
The last part of her thought sums up the mindset of the World State. No relationship goes more than skin deep. No one person really matters much to anyone else or is remembered. Individuality is subordinated to the collective.
Every body is cremated. It's an idea that springs from the "everyone is equal and contributes equally to production" concept of the World State. Lenina and Henry discuss this while on their date, after Lenina inquires about the balconies she sees along the smoke stacks.
"Phosphorus recovery," explained Henry telegraphically. "On their way up the chimney the gases go through four separate treatments. P2O5 used to go right out of circulation every time they cremated some one. Now they recover over ninety-eight per cent of it. More than a kilo and a half per adult corpse. Which makes the best part of four hundred tons of phosphorus every year from England alone." Henry spoke with a happy pride, rejoicing whole-heartedly in the achievement, as though it had been his own. "Fine to think we can go on being socially useful even after we're dead. Making plants grow."
Lenina, meanwhile, had turned her eyes away and was looking perpendicularly downwards at the monorail station. "Fine," she agreed. "But queer that Alphas and Betas won't make any more plants grow than those nasty little Gammas and Deltas and Epsilons down there."
"All men are physico-chemically equal," said Henry sententiously. "Besides, even Epsilons perform indispensable services."
Lenina has no reaction to the Crematorium, apart from a strong sense of caste superiority. Henry reminds her that everyone, even an Epsilon, is essential to the health and stability of the World State. Thus, the phosphorus is recovered (at least 98% of it), and everyone continues being useful long after their deaths.