Brave New World Questions and Answers
by Aldous Huxley

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In Brave New World, why do Bernard Marx and Helmholtz Watson feel out of place in society?

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Thanh Munoz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Both of them are Alpha + members of the society, but this alone isn't what causes them to feel like outsiders. If anything, the superior characteristics of an Alpha + should confer a kind of inner satisfaction upon the individual. In Bernard's case, much of his dysphoria has to do (though this seems to interpret him as a superficial character) with his physical appearance. He's small and unattractive looking, and he is self-conscious about it. The whole Society is built on the principles of conformity and regularity. Bernard is a misfit not through any deliberation of thought but because he's a kind of anomaly within the system. It is not just his appearance. He seems as well to present with what we now call OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), fretting about incidental and unimportant things that should not be a concern to anyone in this "perfect world."

Helmholtz is different. He seems more of a genuine rebel than Bernard, and his consciousness of his difference from others drives him...

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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fasiku | Student

In spite of the societal system of programmed thoughts and social conditioning preeminent in Brave New World, Bernard Marx and Helmholtz Watson feel alienated and displaced.

Bernard Marx's sense of displacement stems from his insecurities, which in turn stem from his physique. Unlike the quintessential alpha, he is short and lean. His physique incites mockery and debasement from his colleagues. Rather than rising above this, Marx allows the affronts to elicit a sense of alienation that eventually engulfs his personality.

Because the social condition is not favorable to him, Marx feels detached from the system and society, at large. He wonders, "What would it be like if I were free; enslaved by my conditioning?" Secretly, he wants to be 'normal', to have the commanding presence of alphas have (this is revealed in his dealings with the Deltas and Gammas). In truth, his sense of displacement is fueled by his perception that to be "infantile" is to conform to a system that suppresses the essence of.

On the other hand, Helmholtz's feelings of displacement were born out of his consciousness of the vastness of human potential. He has it all; the looks, the capabilities. Indeed, he is "able". Yet, this 'perfection' enables him to realize that society is holding him from reaching his full potential. He discovers that his society confines its members into roles that are much below their capabilities. This awareness of entrapment is what makes Helmholtz Watson feel displaced in his society.

The displacement that Marx and Watson feel, serve to highlight the fact that an extreme caste system will not thrive among humans.