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Chapter 17

Kristen Over, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 17 of Aldous Huxley's book Brave New World.

Brave New World | Chapter 17 | Summary

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Summary

John the Savage and Mustapha Mond continue their conversation in private now that Bernard and Helmholtz have left. Their conversation focuses on God and religion. Mond unlocks a cabinet and shows John three books, The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments, The Imitation of Christ, and The Varieties of Religious Experience by Henry James. He and John debate the need for God and a spiritual life. John contends that people need God's constant presence as an "absolute and everlasting truth." Mond says people change, and since in the World State conditioning and genetic engineering have abolished change, people don't need an unseen force outside of themselves to fulfill their needs. Instant gratification addresses their every desire, and they want for nothing. People don't have to fear disease, old age, the loss of prosperity or beloved family members, or being alone anymore, so they don't need God. He argues that the State offers people the rules, jobs, and activities they will follow in life, and the conditioning to accept them ends the need for a supreme being. John believes people deserve the freedom to choose whether to depend on a guiding force in the universe or not, and he chooses the power of God. Along with that admission, he defends his right to live and believe according to his free choices and all of the joys and sorrows they might bring.

Analysis

Mustapha Mond does not view the Controllers' decisions to make every choice for the people in the world as oppressive, especially the choice to believe in God or not. Like all tyrants he understands abolishing even the whisper of a God and religion is necessary for the success of a strong repressive government, but it is permitted for him since he knows what's best for people. From his interpretation of his readings, he realizes that abolishing spiritual ideologies is even more crucial to the World State than limiting the knowledge of history and the ideas and thoughts teased into existence by books and art. He argues that man is not prepared to handle the freedom of choice, and this justifies the World State's decision to remove the need for God. Ironically Mond keeps books on religion locked in a cabinet and even professes a fascination with the topic. He doesn't see that the reality the government selects for the people is false because he sincerely contends it is truth as far as they know it. Huxley offers the main purpose for his satiric novel with Mond's argument that in this modern world, when peoples' needs and desires are met with little effort, when they don't feel their jobs add meaning to their existence, and when scientific discoveries extend life spans, they have no need for a spiritual basis. John's comment "Nothing costs enough here" offers the author the core meaning for his satire.

When he wrote this book ,Huxley saw that to a certain extent, people would accept a life in which the decisions were made for them, especially if that existence would erase the ravages of war, disease, and a worldwide depression. Some people who were ruined by the Stock Market Crash in 1929 and the loss of income, with no foreseeable chance of finding a way to earn money, literally ended their lives by jumping out of windows. Huxley encountered others who figuratively leaped onto any real or philosophic bandwagon from socialism to communism if it offered happiness, a steady income, a full pantry, and an end to suffering. John is the voice of reason; he knows that misery will never be eradicated by the propaganda and decisions of tyrants. In Malpais John had endured exclusion, and in this Other Place he suffers from too much inclusion because of the expected group interaction aspect. He knows that, at some point or another, people will search for an answer to the sun, moon, stars, and night sky.

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