The meaning of happiness varies greatly across individuals and groups, but everyone wants to be happy, and there is no exception to this rule. For many developed countries, the happiness and wellbeing of their people remains a vital element of their political and social agendas. In his novel “Brave New World”, Aldous Huxley presents a new vision on the problem of happiness and presents happiness as one of the most desired and, yet, most conditioned human states. Huxley explores the fragile boundary between happiness and control. In his work, attitudes toward happiness are preprogrammed and constantly controlled. Happiness is achieved by doing the things individuals are taught to do and using artificial medicines to avoid problematic situations (the soma). Thesis: In Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, high level of happiness is uniquely balanced with the low quality of emotional life; by controlling the level of happiness in society, the State seeks greater stability and tries to protect its citizens from the failures and misfortunes they would inevitably encounter, while searching for the truth.
Happiness is one of the central themes of Huxley’s “Brave New World.” It is an extreme form of conditioned responses to various activities and decisions. Citizens are preconditioned and preprogrammed to be happy with what they are expected to do. One of the phrases said by the Director at the very beginning of the novel helps create a complete picture of happiness in the World State: “that is the secret of happiness and virtue – liking what you’ve got to do” (Huxley 19). It is by making people like their unavoidable destiny that the Leaders of the World State manage to achieve and sustain the highest level of happiness in their citizens (Huxley 19). In other words, citizens are made happy by doing the things they are programmed to do. In case of any problems, they can use soma and take some rest until the problem is solved.
The World State is a world dominated by genetic engineering and extreme social conditioning, where all citizens have their desires satisfied, but these desired are predetermined by the State. People feel very happy. However, they have no freedom to choose the best source of happiness. It would be fair to say that, in reality, members of the World State do not know what it feels being happy. They think they experience happiness, and they are told by the Leaders, Controllers, and Directors that they do. At the same time, most citizens are unwilling to sacrifice the feeling of happiness and inner peace for the sake of abstract categories, such as truth and freedom. They are more willing to throw themselves into willful self-delusion through soma rather than try to approach and solve their problems immediately.
Certainly, there is nothing good in having individual perceptions of happiness artificially created and modified. The world where attitudes towards happiness are preprogrammed and strictly controlled during one’s lifetime leaves no room for freedom, autonomy, and individual decision making. It is lying happiness, as Savage calls it (Huxley 194). Happiness that is so easily managed and used to turn the worst enemies into closest allies has nothing to do with the reality of sincere human relationships. Citizens of the world state are not aware of the real pleasures of life. In the Brave New World, citizens perceive happiness as something that should be constantly present in their lives. They feel complete happiness every day, every minute, every hour (Huxley 140). This, in turn, makes the whole idea of the controlled World State completely unnatural, as it is difficult to imagine a human being could live his entire life without facing a single, slightest misfortune. In this story, only John Savage seems more or less realistic about the world’s attitudes towards happiness, and he is the only one ready to face unhappiness instead of being falsely happy as the citizens of the World State (Huxley 194).
One more problem with the ideally “happy” world is that neither science nor high art is allowed to enter the lives of the absolutely “happy” citizens. The World State constantly monitors the information flows affecting the hearts and minds of its citizens. When Mustapha Mond writes “Not to be published” on the title-page of a new book on biology, he does it to make sure that, under the influence of art and science, humans do not lose their faith in happiness (Huxley 192). In this sense, happiness easily transforms into a new form of religion, which is used by the World State to control its citizens. If citizens want to be happy by all means, why not use this desire to keep them submissive for the benefit of the State?
Yet, in all these controversies, an atom of truth can still be found. These controlled attitudes towards happiness bring the society to the desired level of stability. It is not the world that was described by Shakespeare in Othello: it is a world, which does not know the fear of social instability (Huxley 242). All people living in the World State are happy; “they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get” (Huxley 242). By controlling citizens’ attitudes to and perceptions of happiness, the World State tries to address the deepest flaws inherent in a traditional, “emotional” society. People, whose attitudes towards happiness are preprogrammed and controlled, never experience a mismatch between their desires and possibilities. In the World State, they want only those things they can get (Huxley 242). They always feel safe and never fall ill (Huxley 242). They have no fear of death and do not care about passion (Huxley 242). They do not have to think of the problems that could have been imposed on them by their family members, had they lived in a traditional world (Huxley 242). They do not need any strong feelings; as a result, they never suffer (Huxley 242). In case of any problems, they always have their soma (Huxley 242).
Citizens of the World State do not need truth or beauty to be happy (Huxley 156). Neither of these would manage to protect the humanity from conflicts and falling bombs (Huxley 250). People are looking for peace and stability. They want to know what will happen tomorrow. They need to be confident that tomorrow will be as good as today. They are willing to pay a price of non-liberty and have their appetites controlled just to be constantly happy (Huxley 250). It is universal happiness that keeps the society in progress; neither knowledge nor beauty can successfully accomplish this mission (Huxley 250).
The picture of happiness presented in Huxley’s “Brave New World” is a picture of a happy utopia, where the boundary between self-satisfaction and complete control is extremely blurred. On the one hand, this society has managed to sacrifice its old, outdated beliefs about freedom, autonomy, and God for the sake of machinery, medicine, and happiness (Huxley 257). Citizens in the World State (not humans but citizens) act automatically and almost mechanically, trying to retain their right to be happy every second of their lives. The picture of this utopian happiness and preprogrammed attitudes towards happiness looks quite horrible and completely unnatural. It is the world, where the level of happiness is very high but the level of emotional life is very low.
On the other hand, it is due to programming and utmost control of happiness that the World State has managed to address and correct the most serious flaws inherent in an earlier society. Everyone seeks predictability, and the World State has managed to make it real. Emotions and freedom have been sacrificed for the sake of stability and progress. Citizens who never want things they cannot get will never experience any emotional difficulties. On the contrary, they will be focused entirely on their primary functions and, therefore, enable their society to move towards higher goals. In this sense, happiness becomes a remarkable source of power and an instrument of stability and control, thus securing citizens from the problems and misfortunes they would inevitably encounter in their search of truth.
In the world depicted by Aldous Huxley in “Brave New World”, attitudes toward happiness are preprogrammed and strictly controlled. By controlling the level of happiness in society, the State seeks greater stability and tries to protect its citizens from the failures and misfortunes they would inevitably encounter, while searching for the truth. In this world, citizens want only things they can get, thus eliminating any mismatch between their desires and objective possibilities. It is an ideal of a horrible utopia which, nevertheless, enables its citizens to focus on their primary obligations and work for the benefit of the World State.