Humanity in Brave New World

Categories: Being HumanHumanity

For years, authors and philosophers have satirized the “perfect” society to incite change. In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley describes a so-called utopian society in which everyone is happy. This society is a “controlled environment where technology has essentially [expunged] suffering.

A member of this society never needs to be inconvenienced by emotion, “And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma” (Huxley 220). Citizens spend their lives sleeping with as many people as they please, taking soma to dull any unpleasant thoughts that arise, and happily working in the jobs they were conditioned to want.

They are genetically altered and conditioned to be averse to socially destructive things, like nature and families. They are trained to enjoy things that are socially beneficial: “’That is the secret of happiness and virtue – liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny’” (Huxley 16). Citizens operate more like machinery, and less like humans. Humanity is defined as “the quality of being human” (“Humanity”).

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To some, humanity refers to the aspects that define a human: love, compassion and emotions. Huxley satirizes humanity by dehumanizing the citizens in the Brave New World society.

Huxley deletes love from society to satirize humanity. In the society, in order to maintain stability, “’The greatest care is taken to prevent you from loving any one too much’” (Huxley 237). If you have no loved ones, you have no one to mourn. When a citizen dies, life continues on as usual; there is no loss in efficiency.

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Huxley learned at a young age that grieving for a loved one is part of being a human: “At the age of fourteen Aldous Huxley would lose his mother and he himself would subsequently become ill in 1911 with a disease that would leave him virtually blind. As if all of this was not enough, his other brother, Noel, would kill himself in 1914” (“Aldous Huxley”). Many of Huxley’s loved ones died before Huxley was twenty. Even after they died, he knew that it is better to love someone and then lose them, as opposed to never loving at all. This taught him that, “’being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune’” (Huxley 221), but the “good fight” is worth the pain. Unlike Mustapha Mond, the speaker in the previous quote, Huxley learned something more important about love in his youth; the joy of love outweighs the pain of love. Huxley satirizes humanity by removing love from the society.

Huxley also uses lack of compassion to emphasize the loss of humanity in the society. The main lack of compassion in this society stems from the fact that citizens are desensitized to death. An example of desensitization occurs at the hospital, where John Savage’s mother dies, (similar to Huxley’s mother). John is horrified by the lack of compassion shown to him when a Bokanovsky group harasses his dying mother: “’Why is she so fat?’ ‘Isn’t she awful?’ ‘Look at her teeth!’” (Huxley 202). John is disgusted that children are being exposed to this tragedy: “’What are these filthy little brats doing here at all? It’s disgraceful!’ ‘Disgraceful? But what do you mean? They’re being death-conditioned’” (Huxley 203). Small children are exposed to dying patients so that they are used to death. They do not think of it as something to be avoided. This is also reflected in Brave New World when Henry Foster explains the cremation system: “’P2O5 used to go right out of circulation every time they cremated someone. Now they recover over ninety-eight percent of it. More than a kilo and a half per adult corpse… Fine to think we can go on being socially useful even after we’re dead’” (Huxley 73). This objectifies people by placing certain values on their heads; each human is equal to one-point-five kilos of phosphate. People have been degraded into things that extinguish and become a cloud of P2O5, with no one to miss them. There is no compassion for people in mourning, because no one mourns in this society. Even if they did have someone to grieve for, no one can comprehend why death is something worth mourning. Huxley uses this lack of compassion and desensitization to death to emphasize the lack of humanity in this society.

Finally, Huxley uses lack of emotion to emphasize lack of humanity in the society. As stated previously, Huxley developed a mature outlook on joy at a young age; he considered it brief, and always balanced out by unhappiness. An example of his perspective on joy appears in the Indian reservation. The natives are plagued by illness, death, and old age. In contrast, they are blessed with human joys denied to citizens of the world state: love, passion, family, friendship, etc. Civilized citizens are unable to feel these emotions because they are designed to feel nothing. They think of emotions as something dangerous: “’What with mothers and lovers… what with all the diseases and the endless isolating pain, what with the uncertainties and the poverty– they were forced to feel strongly. And feeling strongly… how could they be stable?’” (Huxley 41). John expresses his aversion to this mentality with a quote from Othello: “If after every tempest came such calms, may the winds blow till they have wakened death” (Huxley 238). John uses this quote to say that he would rather feel every human emotion, the positive with the negative, than feel nothing. He believes that “suffering is a part of the human experience. Without it, the citizens are somehow less-than-human” (“Brave New World”). During his sojourn at the lighthouse, where he flees to escape the society, John “purifies” himself by drinking mustard, vomiting, and whipping himself. He causes himself pain because he needs to feel something in order to regain his humanity. At the end of the novel, John gives in to the erotic temptations of the society he so despises. When he wakes up the next day, he commits suicide because living as a citizen of the world state is less humane than dying as a real human. The lack of emotion in Huxley’s civilized society speaks to the lack of humanity.

Huxley chose to satirize humanity for many reasons. Since this novel is a satire, the main goal of writing Brave New World was to incite change. In the late 1930’s, when Huxley moved to California, Europe had already entered into World War II. It was not until 1941 that the United States joined the war. Soon, influenced by a world-at-war mentality, people considered it an honor to die for their country, and the government started treating citizens as numbers and army sizes instead of human beings. Leaders like Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini ascended to power and initiated mass genocides. Knowing Huxley’s past, this probably unsettled him (“Aldous Huxley”). He satirized a government in which the citizens are less than human to prevent real-world society from degenerating into a similar state. More important, however, was Huxley’s goal to teach his readers a lesson. He taught his readers that there is no love without loss, no joy without sorrow, no light without dark, and that one must endure the hardships of life in order to enjoy the blessings. Sadness is a defining characteristic of a human being: “In spite of their sadness– because of it, even; for their sadness was the symptom of their love for one another– the three young men were happy” (Huxley 242). Sadness is a symptom of joy. Loss is a symptom of love. But Huxley knew that it is worth it to feel both pain and happiness instead of nothing. Without these defining characteristics of humanity, all that remains is a stable, well-oiled machine, certainly not a group of human beings.

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Humanity in Brave New World. (2021, Sep 21). Retrieved from

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