Aldous Huxley demonstrates the human obsession with pleasure in his dystopian novel Brave New World through illustrations of sex, drugs, and passive entertainment, which are all utilized as distractions to limit independent thinking and to create a stable society. The citizens of the World estate believe these diversions are ways of escape from distress and provide fulfillment; it may be pleasurable for a time, but life will always include periods of suffering. There is value in the torment – it does not serve for nothing. So when Lenina Crowne, for example, negligently swallows another soma pill, she is only hurting herself because she is not filling any permanent void. Lenina is experiencing gratification, but she is not receiving true satisfaction; some may believe these two words – gratification and satisfaction – are interchangeable, however there are subtle distinctive features that differentiate the terms. Even though gratification, or a means of enjoyment, is vital to life, it becomes futile when one is not provided the ability to juxtapose it with satisfaction, or the fulfillment of a deficiency. Sincere joy is cognizant when satisfaction outweighs gratification, which the majority of the characters in Brave New World do not comprehend because of their upbringing in the World estate.
Lenina Crowne is a very troubled character because her values are those of a conventional World Estate citizen, however she also goes against her culture’s normal conventions such as dating one man, Bernard Marx, and also by developing mad love for John the Savage. These conflicting feelings cause Lenina to be unorthodox for her behavior in the beta caste, which causes her to feel miserable. So, she unconsciously turns to what she has been conditioned to rely on when she is in discomfort : the “perfect” soma. In chapter 6 of the novel, Lenina attempts to convince Bernard to take the drug by saying, “why don’t you take soma when you have these dreadful ideas of yours. You’d forget all about them. And instead of feeling miserable, you’d be jolly. So jolly.” (92). Yes, the soma will enhance your arousal and well being but only for a short time; it is imperative to distinguish true happiness from this temporary, purely physical pleasure. When Lenina gets back from her “holiday” of a soma trip, her past problems will still exist, just like before. What would bring actual satisfaction for Lenina would be to handle her situations directly and quit procrastinating to avoid them. Another example of soma usage to forget life’s issues is John’s mother, Linda. After so many years at the Reservation and being forced to take care of her son in a foreign land after formerly living in the World Estate, Linda was desperate to take soma again. She also did this to escape from the uncomfortable dilemma with the Director as the father of her son and the harsh ridicule of all the society in the World Estate. Her death by an overdose of soma quintessentially represents that a surfeit of pleasure is detrimental to a person. For these characters, a void is not filled when taking soma, and it just leaves these characters, in fact, even more depressed than before.
Although both Alphas, the highest in the caste system, Bernard Marx and Helmholtz Watson are distraught; this demonstrates that being at the top tier of society does not provide one satisfaction. It is important to note that these two characters are dissatisfied with their lives purely because of its mundane nature of constant pleasure. Bernard and Helmholtz have found true satisfaction in giving their absolute best attempts to not succumb to the social norms – they pride themselves on the little individuality they have. Bernard focuses on one partner, often refuses to take soma, is quite contemplative of life, and appreciates the beauty of the world. During the strawberry ice cream soma ritual, Bernard does not feel any fulfillment unlike all the others in the circle because he does does not receive gratification from such activities. He rather finds satisfaction by going against the grain of the society. However, Bernard is not as serious of a rebel than Helmholtz because he still participates in the recreational sex and takes soma on occasion.. Helmholtz has more self-control and completely abstains from the World Estate’s pleasures, instead using his energy for what he feels is more fulfilling – writing. Eventually, however, Helmholtz finds no gratification with his work either and believes that he wants to do more than being a slave of monotonous propaganda. When he learns that he is exiled from the World Estate to the Falkland Islands for his outlandish behavior, he is actually overjoyed and takes it as an opportunity for inspiration in his writing. Bernard and Helmholtz were dissatisfied but discovered what gave them purpose to provide genuine happiness.
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