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The Argument for Stability over Freedom

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“The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they 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” (Huxley 220).

This quotation exemplifies Aldous Huxley’s purpose in Brave New World to pose the question whether it is better to be happy or free? The speaker of the quotation, the Controller Mustapha Mond, is arguing that stability and happiness are more important in society than freedom and expression of life through authentic plays like Shakespeare’s Othello. In Huxley’s future society, everyone is conditioned to be “happy” and if they begin to feel down, they can turn to “soma,” a drug that makes you feel very happy. The Controller’s view of the society is that the lower castes could not be able to function at a high enough level to appreciate freedom and liberty. Through the character of Controller Mond, Huxley is making the point that people are happy because they get what they want, they are safe, not ill, and unaware of passion with lovers and are emotionally conditioned to not fear death. In a word, they are “blissfully ignorant” of the enjoyment and benefits that come with freedom and liberty. Mond seems quite pleased with the fact that conditioning has removed fear of ill health, death, and emotional attachments. As long as every caste member was “blissfully ignorant” of their position in society, the individual caste members remained content in their own lives.

The quote above is taken from the conversation between Mustapha Mond, John the Savage, and Helmholtz Watson regarding the Shakespearean play, Othello and the “feelies.” In this scene between Mond and John where they discussed history and Othello, Mond believes that the past and history, like Othello, should be ignored simply because the society wants people to focus on growing and expanding. Huxley’s quote reveals this focus on the here and now and ignores the problems of the past, like emotional attachments with families and lovers, and stresses that happiness is looking forward to the future. Accordingly, it appears natural to Mond that his society must give up “high art” like Othello for future growth and theoretical happiness. Essentially, Mond argues that the less people know, the easier it will be to condition them for certain roles in society and to convince them, with a little help from soma, that they are happy in their caste in society.

Even though the Controller acknowledges that Othello is better than the “feelies,” he maintains that member in society are highly conditioned so that they can not behave any differently than what their conditioning dictates. Mond justifies himself ignoring the real art like Othello as the “price we have to pay for stability” (Huxley 220). By analyzing the nature of Mond’s explanation to John the Savage, Mond demonstrates that he is conditioned to believe his own argument that stability is more important than freedom. This passage shows the irony of a society so focused on conditioning all its members that even the highest caste cannot appreciate the nature of freedom. Through this Othello conversation between Mond and John the Savage, Huxley implies that even the highest Alpha Plus caste members, such as Controller Mond, may not be fully capable of deciding that stability is more important than freedom and that “stability” creates happiness.

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