Brave New World is not, or not just, a dystopia
n horror story.
It asks a fundamental question about our society
, one without easy
answers: "What is our goal, and will we like it if we get it?"
Frequently we identify the goal of society by the Utilitarian
"greatest happiness for the greatest number" principle. And in practice,
the kind of happiness this usually results in is calm, content,
and comfortable. Our ideal society would cause the minimum amount of
discomfort to the maximum number of people.
As Mustapha Mond points out, the World State is based on exactly
this comfort principle. Everything that causes pain has been removed.
Nearly everyone is calm, content, and comfortable nearly
all the time. Anything that had to be sacrificed to achieve this goal
It is these sacrifices which cause the horror we feel on contemplating
the World State. The State, as Mond recounts, is a result of the World
Controllers realizing that if they were to achieve comfort and
stability, all other ideals must be sacrificed.
Art is done away with, because the passion needed to create it is
linked to suffering and discontent. Science and the pursuit of Truth
must cease, because they constantly upset our view of the world.
Religion is gone, because the New Man may have no god but pleasure.
Love is dead, and with it family, because the bonds of affection
for any particular person lead to passion, which leads to instability.
This is what we would need to give up, if we were ever to achieve the
ideal for which we have always been striving. This is the world we would
make, if the dream of contentment were realized. Huxley shows it to be
a nightmarish, intolerable place. The contentment finally achieved is
a faint pretense at true happiness. With contentment as our goal, we will
be forced to give up all of the other things in life for it, and the
contentment we seek will be poisoned. In short, Huxley is telling us that
we need a better goal.