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Brave New World takes place in a tightly controlled world where technology has all but eliminated suffering and a widely used narcotic called soma dulls whatever momentary pains may arise. It may sound like a pretty chill set up, but it's definitely not. But why, you ask?
Have you ever read Shakespeare? Listened to Mariah Carey? You'll notice that suffering is a central part of the human experience. Without suffering, people somehow become less than human.
Self-inflicted pain becomes, for one character, a way to regain his humanity as well as a spiritual cleansing. God, he explains, is a reason for self-denial. This is of course tied to the notion of an afterlife: denying the body in this life will be good for the soul in the afterlife. Christianity especially espouses this theory, as suffering for one's sins is one way to emulate Jesus Christ. Suffering may certainly suck at times, but a world without it means a world without love, purpose, or compassion.
Questions About Suffering
- Why does John want to suffer? Is it for the sake of suffering, or for the satisfaction of relief once the suffering is over?
- Religion is tied to suffering in Brave New World. John explicitly tells Mustapha that God is a reason for self-denial. If you take away religion, is there any other reason for experiencing pain in Brave New World?
- What is the general take on suffering in the Savage Reservation? Is this more or less reasonable than the World State's view on suffering?
- Does John commit suicide to end his suffering, or to accentuate it?
Chew on This
Despite John's adamant convictions, suffering serves no purpose in Brave New World.
Inflicting pain on oneself is the only path to liberty in Brave New World.