In Brave New World Huxley is targeting consumer, materialistic attitudes that existed in his time (and still do today) and extrapolating, then projecting them into the world that is the World State, to serve as a warning to society of the consequences of these attitudes. The passage in question is from Chapter XIV of Huxley’s Brave New World, and more specifically features the incident in which the Savage’, John, visits his dying mother at a hospital, and subsequently instigates a riot because of soma, which he abhors.
The drug, soma, in particular is emblematic in its pervasive influence into the World State, of the power of technology and ignorance is bliss’ outlook over science and it’s ideal as a search for truth. Soma is embraced by the populace as a means of instant gratification, embodied by such hypnopaedic platitudes as One cubic centimetre cures 10 gloomy sentiments’ or A gramme is always better than a damn’, drilled into the subconscious of the people, having heard the words repeated 150 times every night for 12 years’.
Christianity without tears’ is how Mustapha Mond describes soma, contrasting with the Savage’s view that the tears are necessary’ as displayed in the passage. The first satirical irony of the passage is that John is indeed referred to as a Savage’, whereas the model of humanity shown by John stemming from Shakespeare’s presentation of human nature (through his works) is quite simply more humane, and more comparable to our own contemporary ideal of what it is to be human.
This is exemplified by the character of Lenina, who is frequently referred to by other men (and even herself) as being pneumatic’, and elsewhere this same adjective is applied to a chair, effectively reducing Lenina to little more than an object, a piece of meat. “Like meat,’ he was thinking She thinks of herself that way. She doesn’t mind being meat. ” (Pg. 83) Similar to this, is how the society of the World State has conditioned the populace so that modern social attitudes have in fact been phased out of existence, even to the extent of something as basically moral as concern for others’ welfare: Is there any hope? he asked. You mean, of her not dying? No, of course there isn’t. ‘
Startled by the expression of distress” (Pg. 180-1) The nurse’s surprise alone maintains this, and there is even a hypnopaedic phrase: When the individual feels, the community reels’. Conversely, certain social attitudes have been phased in, perhaps to fill the vacuum of consciousness that remained (from the removal of aforementioned attitudes), in a similar way that God has been substituted for Ford’ and soma almost takes the place of a religious sacrament.
This can, for example, be discerned from Helmholtz’ somewhat uncharacteristic reaction to a passage from Romeo and Juliet, finding it irresistibly comical’, to a passage that is doubtless designed to evoke feelings that are antithetical to what Helmholtz expresses. In the passage itself a certain disgust and taboo is seen to be associated with the traditional method of birth and the mother/child association, John’s mere mention of having a mother induces an extraordinary reaction from the nurse; she was all one hot blush’.
Elsewhere in the novel, in a report to Controller Mond, Bernard Marx even feels the need to censor the word mother to M-‘. Aspects of satire in this passage can be compared with similar satirical targets from other novels. The removal of humanity by hypnopaedia is comparable to the removal of humanity in Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange’ endured by Alex through the Ludivico technique, transforming him from a creature capable of growth and sweetness to a mechanical creation’; hence the loss of humanity.
It is ironic and perhaps intentional that the undoing of Alex’s mental coercion to do good is removed by hypnopaedia, thereby allowing him to do evil once again (should he so choose), which is effectively the reverse of its purpose in Brave New World. In Huxley’s novel, it is used to mould people to their intended roles in society, and ensures that there is no dissent from the people.
At the end of the passage, John witnesses his mother in a state of infantile contentment’, and this is what she had declared to have wanted earlier in the book; to float on a cloud of soma induced bliss. This is the kind of inherent trait displayed by those conditioned by the World State, being more aptly viewed as children with little understanding of what is truly significant. Even this is inappropriate, as children grow up, and clearly, the people of the Brave New World shall not. It is ultimately this that separates the Savage’ from practically every other character in the novel.