'Brave New World' Quotes Explained

Aldous Huxley's classic dystopian novel, Brave New World, deals with issues of technological advancements, sexuality, and individuality in the context of a dehumanizing society. Huxley explores how his characters react to living in a dystopian future society, in which everyone’s place is strictly defined. 

Quotes About Love and Sex

"Mother, monogamy, romance. High spurts the fountain; fierce and foamy the wild jet. The urge has but a single outlet. My love, my baby. No wonder those poor pre-moderns were mad and wicked and miserable. Their world didn’t allow them to take things easily, didn’t allow them to be sane, virtuous, happy. What with mothers and lovers, what with the prohibitions they were not conditioned to obey, what with the temptations and the lonely remorses, what with all the diseases and the endless isolating pain, what with the uncertainties and the poverty—they were forced to feel strongly. And feeling strongly (and strongly, what was more, in solitude, in hopelessly individual isolation), how could they be stable?" (Chapter 3)

In Chapter 3, Mustapha Mond explains the history of the World State to a group of boys touring the Hatchery. “Mother, monogamy, and romance” are concepts that are reviled in the World State, as is the whole idea of “feeling strongly”; however, for John, these are core values, as he is devoted to his mother, and strives for monogamy and romance while still experiencing feelings unfiltered by soma. Eventually, abiding by those feelings causes him to try to purify himself with self-flagellation, which, in an unfortunate turn of events, leads to his madness and suicide. His demise does, indirectly, prove Mustapha Mond’s point, as, by eliminating “mother, monogamy, and romance” alongside “feeling strongly,” the World State succeeded in creating a stable society where everybody was superficially happy. Sure, human beings are indoctrinated to behave in one way only according to their caste, and the whole State is a system founded on production and consumption, fueled by the consumerist tendencies of its inhabitants; yet, they are happy. They just need to drink soma and choose merriment over truth.

"'Whore!' he shouted 'Whore! Impudent strumpet!'" (Chapter 13)

John yells these words at Lenina as she gets naked in front of him. Citing his beloved Shakespeare, he addresses her as a “disrespectful whore.” It’s a line coming from Othello, where the titular character is about to kill his wife Desdemona as he became convinced she had been cheating on him. Both instances of the use “impudent strumpet” are misdirected, though: Desdemona was faithful all along, while Lenina had been sleeping around because the society she was raised in conditioned her to do so. Othello and John see their love interest as both sleazy and beautiful, which disturbs John, since he is not able to compute feelings of repulsion and attraction at the same time. In fact, such contrasting feelings eventually lead him to madness and death.

Quotes About Politics

"When the individual feels, the community reels." (Various mentions)

This is a Society’s teaching of the World State, which goes hand in hand with “never put off till tomorrow the fun you can have today.” Lenina pronounces it to Bernard after they had spent a night together in his rooms, which he regretted, saying he wished it had ended differently, especially considering it was their first day together. She claims it’s pointless to put off having any fun, while he wants to “feel something strongly,” which is largely discouraged in the World State, as feelings can overthrow any form of stability. Yet, Bernard yearns for some reeling, too. This conversation makes Lenina feel rejected.

"Yes, and civilization is sterilization." (Chapter 7)

Civilization is sterilization is one of the main Society’s teachings in Brave New World, and different characters utter it throughout the novel. Sterilization can mean different things: one is sanitation and cleanliness, as opposed to the filth people in the Reservation live in. “I had an awful cut on my head when they first brought me here. You can't imagine what they used to put on it. Filth, just filth,” Linda recalls before uttering the statement. Similarly, Lenina equates sterilization with cleanliness, which she insists “is next to fordliness.” However, sterilization can also be interpreted with regards to making women unable to bear children. In the World State, 70% of the female population are made into freemartins, meaning sterile women. They achieve that by injecting the female embryos with a low dose of sex hormones. This makes them sterile and fairly normal, except for the slight tendency to grow a beard. 

"Our world is not the same as Othello's world. You can't make flivvers without steel—and you can't make tragedies without social instability. The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get." (Chapter 16)

With these words which Mustapha Mond speaks to John, in a philosophical-debate-like fashion, he details why Shakespeare is obsolete in the World State. Being a highly educated man, he admits to them being beautiful, but his words are old and, thus, unfit for a society that is primarily oriented to consumerism. What’s more, he belittles John for using Shakespeare as a paradigm of values and ethics, because Shakespeare’s world is very different from the World State. His was a world subjected to turmoil and instability, while the World State is essentially stable, which, in turn, is not a fertile ground for tragedies. 

Quotes About Happiness

"And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears—that’s what soma is." (Chapter 17)

This quote is excerpted from a conversation between John and Mustapha, which takes place in Chapter 17. Mustapha is trying to convince John that soma is a cure-all remedy for any unpleasant emotion which can lead to inefficiency and conflict. Unlike the hard moral training of the past, soma can solve any ailment of the soul almost instantly.

Curiously, the parallel between moral training, which is usually a core aspect of religion, and soma, hints at the origin of the word soma itself. It used to be an entheogenic draught that was consumed during rituals in the Vedic religion. Several myths also see two opposing factions of deities fighting over the ownership of soma. However, while soma was originally consumed by gods and humans alike in order to attain “the light” and immortality, the soma, which in the World State comes in convenient tablets, is mainly used to deal with any “unpleasantness”: Lenina knocks herself out with it after being unable to endure the horrors she witnessed in the Reservation. Meanwhile, Linda, who in her isolation in the Reservation had been looking for a substitute for the soma in mescaline and peyotl, eventually is prescribed a lethal dose of soma once she gets back to the World State.

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Frey, Angelica. "'Brave New World' Quotes Explained." ThoughtCo, Jan. 29, 2020, thoughtco.com/brave-new-world-quotes-739019. Frey, Angelica. (2020, January 29). 'Brave New World' Quotes Explained. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/brave-new-world-quotes-739019 Frey, Angelica. "'Brave New World' Quotes Explained." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/brave-new-world-quotes-739019 (accessed March 21, 2023).