Is the World State a prison in Brave New World?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a central question that is well worth thinking about deeply. Of course, there seem to be two main responses that you can take and support with reference to the text. The whole issue is based around whether you feel the loss of personal control and responsibility and the intense conditioning we see represented in this world is a good thing or not. Let us just look at how Mustapha Mond justifies the world as it is in Chapter 16 to John, arguing why this future dystopia could not be like the world of Shakespeare:

Because oru world is not the same as Othello's world. You can't make flivvers without steel--and you can't make tragedies without social instability. The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and tey never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill; they're not afraid of death; they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they're plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they're so conditioned that they practically can't help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there's soma.

So, the question is, does this view of the world seem attractive to you? Certainly, the way in which the World State has achieved stability and happiness is definitely attractive, yet we must ask ourselves what price has been paid to achieve this. If we look at Mond's description, we see society has been engineered to condition humans so strongly that they are little more than robots. Stability has only been achieved at the price of removing everything that defines us as humans: passion, fear, death, love, relations. Removing these central facts and making humans dependent upon drugs to feel good does not seem to me to be a life that is worth living. Humans are literally imprisoned through their conditioning to not be able to see the world in any other way, which is why John the Savage is regarded as such an oddity. The world presented to us, based on our own contemporary values, is most definitely a prison, as the humans in it are prisoners without even knowing it.

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Brave New World

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