In this chapter — the aftermath of the soma riot — Mustapha Mond discusses the importance of happiness and stability, even at the cost of truth and freedom. In a sense, this is the conversation both John and Helmholtz have been waiting for — the explanation of everything dissatisfying about the supposedly ideal social system.
As a World Controller who makes — and, accordingly, can break — the laws, Mond reveals his own anti-social tendencies. Mond came to an acceptance of dystopian values, he confesses, after a radical youth, during which he experimented with forbidden science. Choosing a position of responsibility in preference to banishment — a decision he regrets at times — Mond explains that he consciously took on the duty of making others happy through social engineering. As someone who controls the dystopian world while remaining aware of its flaws, then, Mond is the perfect character to answer the objections of Helmholtz and John.
In debating with Helmholtz and John, Mond concedes the validity of their literary loyalties. Comparing the feelies and Shakespeare, Mond unhesitatingly comes down on the side of Shakespeare. But he objects to the poetry on social grounds; Shakespeare’s tragedies require a dangerous instability, now an outdated concept. Stability, rather than truth or beauty, represents the true human value in this age.
In an extraordinary lecture, Mond defends the society’s repressive control over its people — even the development of deliberately brain-damaged fetuses — in the name of human happiness. John’s proposal that the predestinators could, at least, make everyone an Alpha meets with an immediate rejection by Mond. The best society, he explains, “is modeled on the iceberg — eight-ninths below the water line, one-ninth above.”
Mond’s declaration that in his society everyone is happy — even (and, he argues, especially) Epsilons — recalls the image of the Epsilon elevator-operator, sighing in joy at his brief glimpse of the roof before being sent back down into the darkness again. Mond’s satisfaction with his own view of the dystopia is apparent, but Huxley leaves the matter of freedom and justice open to the reader.
Note the different ways in which each of the three characters responds to Mond. John seems interested to find someone in the brave new world who can understand (if not share) his values and is even familiar with Shakespeare. John debates Mond directly and intelligently, without lapsing into name-calling or violence as he has with Lenina and later with the Deltas.
For his part, Helmholtz forges a bond of understanding with the World Controller. Both men respect each other, clearly, and Mond even envies Helmholtz his interesting future in banishment, outside the confines of conformity.
In contrast, this chapter reveals Bernard at his lowest point, with all his former daring and rebelliousness evaporated. Silent and anxious throughout the discussion, he panics and breaks down when he hears the sentence of banishment. In Chapter 17, however, Bernard will return, humbled but in better spirits, ready to face his punishment.
chary careful or cautious; not given freely.
platitude a commonplace or trite remark.
paroxysm a sudden attack or spasm.
abjection a state of misery and degradation.
scullion a servant doing the rough dirty work in a kitchen. Here, Mustapha Mond uses the word humorously to describe his lowly position early in his career.
Falkland Islands a small group of islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of South America. Here, the place of Bernard’s and Helmholtz’s banishment.