Brave New World Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis
by Aldous Huxley

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Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis

After being arrested for their outburst, Bernard, Helmholtz, and John are all taken to the office of Mustapha Mond. When John complains about the background music that's always playing in the air, Mustapha Mond quotes a line from the The Tempest, sparking a conversation about the past, beauty, art, Shakespeare, and social stability. The State has sacrificed high art in favor of peace, and that's why the "art" produced in this world is terrible, like the feely John and Lenina saw on their date. Mustapha Mond admits that the happiness this lowbrow art produced is mundane, but insists that it's better than the rarer, much brighter happiness that people used to have to fight for in the old world.

John then questions why they need to go through the cloning process, which he finds particularly disturbing. Mustapha Mond explains that this is a way to control the population and separate the social classes. For example, Alphas mustn't be forced to do Delta work, because they'd be driven mad by the repetitive nature of the grunt work. At the same time, Epsilons can't do a Beta's work, because they aren't intelligent enough to do so. John wonders why they can't just make a society completely composed of Alphas, but Mustapha Mond again shakes his head. They tried that once before. They left an entire community of Alphas in Cyprus, giving some of them Alpha work and some lower class work, and this led to social unrest and civil war. Similarly, they once reduced a typical worker's hours from seven and a half to four, but people didn't know what to do with that extra free time. They got restless. And the State doesn't like it when people are restless.

Mustapha Mond then reveals that art isn't the only threat to stability. There's also science, which has been all but halted in order to prevent progress and change. Mustapha Mond knows because he was once a very good physicist and realized that this whole world was bunk. When the State decided that he'd been asking too many questions, he was given a choice: be exiled like Bernard will be or stay and take a position of power. He chose to stay. He doesn't extend the same offer to Bernard and Helmholtz. In the end, Bernard gets sent to Iceland, and Helmholtz gets sent to the Falkland Islands, where he thinks the terrible climate will help him write.

Allusions

The Tempest by William Shakespeare. When John complains about the music constantly playing in the background everywhere he goes, Mustapha Mond quotes these lines:

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices . . . (act 3, scene 2, lines 139–140)

He's able to read Shakespeare, he says, because he makes the laws and therefore can break them. He may also be likening John to Caliban, the brutish antagonist of the play who has been forced into servitude by Prospero, the magician who came to live on Caliban's island years before. This underscores the idea that, in the eyes of the State, John is the enemy, not the other way around.

Symbols

Books. In previous chapters, books were established as symbols of both education and intelligence, with infants being conditioned to hate books in order to stunt their intellectual curiosity and emotional intelligence. The copy of My Life and Work, By Our Ford further cements the idea that books are tools that the State uses to control the world population. However, it's clear that Mustapha Mond has not only read but has access to Shakespeare's works, suggesting that books are also symbols of deviance or rebellion.

Themes

Art.  Huxley makes it clear in this chapter that the "art" created in this brave new world is necessarily inferior to the art created by their ancestors. His theory about this is presented by Mustapha Mond, who says that great art comes from suffering, and suffering comes from social strife, but there's no strife in this world, so there isn't anything for artists to use as inspiration. They live in a flat, simple world, and their emotional lives are consequently...

(The entire section is 1,188 words.)