The future of the world is a place of thriving commerce and stability. Safety and happiness are at an all-time high, and no one suffers from depression or any other mental disorders. There are no more wars, as peace and harmony spread to almost every corner of the world. There is no sickness, and people are predestined to be happy and content in their social class. But if anything wrong accidentally occurs, there is a simple solution to the problem, which is soma. The use of soma totally shapes and controls the utopian society described in Huxley’s novel Brave New World as well as symbolize Huxley’s society as a whole. This pleasure drug is the answer to all of life’s little mishaps and also serves as an escape as well as entertainment. The people of this futuristic society use it in every aspect of their lives and depend on it for very many reasons. Although this drug appears to be an escape on the surface, soma is truly a control device used by the government to keep everyone enslaved in set positions.
In the utopian society Huxley creates, everything is artificial. The future of the world depends merely on a handful of directors, and everyone else is simply created as a pawn to maintain this futuristic economy. One of the ten world controllers in the "Brave New World" portrayed in the novel is Mustapha Mond. Mustapha is a driving force behind the utopian society that keeps everyone happy, yet empty inside at the same time. In fact, Mustahpa Mond has been interpreted to mean "the chosen one," for he is like a God to the people (McGiveron 29). People are created in laboratories such as the "Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre," where people are hatched in glass jars, and life is predestined by these "world creators" (Huxley 1). There are many classes or castes in this society, and everyone is taught to love one position or purpose and only socialize with people within the same class. Soma is the answer to all of life’s problems and is invented in an attempt to distract society from worry, tension, and pain. The drug is rationed by the government and is normally consumed after a hard day’s work. In this utopian society, people choose to "know no pain" (Clareson 238). Instead of suffering, people fill their days with the mindless acts they were predestined to perform. At the end of each day, everyone gathers in crowded distribution rooms and waits eagerly to receive the one thing that truly makes the day worthwhile, which is his or her ration of soma (Huxley 215). This valuable drug goes beyond the literal meaning in which it is being used and becomes the one thing that everyone really lives for. The idea in the novel is that pleasure is the most powerful motivator (Clareson 238). So by giving the masses pleasure, the directors keep the world running smoothly. The directors also eliminate the time between desire and fulfillment, so one cannot help but take the quick fix of soma rather than using logic to figure out his or her problems. It is the mass’ motivator and problem solver, and brings the people all the great moods and feelings that they could possible ask for because of its hypnotic power to relax the mind (Meerloo 236). Unfortunately, when the futuristic people take this drug, they eventually destroy themselves and become slaves to a society where they assume they have freewill. Soma keeps people from being individuals by its "hypnotic powers" and destroys any sense of art, expression, creativity, or independence (Meerloo 236).
The people of this "Brave New World" are really living a life of no true comprehension. Critics suggest that, "They have sacrificed the past and the future for the pleasure of the moment, shortening that time between desire and consummation to nothing, or escaping time and space with soma" (Clareson 238). With this idea of escape, the ideal picture of a soma holiday can be understood. It is mentioned in the story that Lenina, one of the main characters, visits a foreign land and forgets her precious soma. In the foreign land, Lenina begins to witness primitive rituals that to her seem unreal and hard to accept. She then only dreams of having her escape to her familiar surroundings and her very precious drug. As she arrives back home from the trip, Lenina purposely overdoses and takes a "soma holiday" that puts her into a state of coma, and it leaves all her negative feelings behind (Huxley 142). Other signs of devotion to this "poison" are brought out all throughout the novel with one of the most famous scenes being that of the soma riot near the end of the novel (Huxley 217). In this event one of the main characters, John, tries to convince hundreds of the tired workers to refuse their daily ration of soma, and instead live their lives in freedom without this controlled substance (Huxley 219). The people are insulted by this remark, which they perceive to be more a threat than a helping gesture. John has the courage to question the angry mob and destroy the soma right before the crowd’s eyes (Huxley 219). So as a result of this nonconformist action, the crowd lashes out, only to be subdued by the police, who oddly enough control the riot by spraying soma gas to calm everyone. The irony of this scene proves that the soma is really more than just a drug, for it is truly an escape or answer to fill any void in their boring lives of "Community, Identity, Stability" (Huxley 1).
Throughout the novel, the feeling arises that perhaps the use of soma is in some way the symbol of the lost innocence of society. Through science, the world directors have made considerable observations and contributions to the point where one may lose touch with reality. Soma itself is merely a synthetic drug used to ease the pain of life, for the pain is actually living a life where everything does not always go the way one plans. Not only is the drug a loss of innocence, but also it encourages the promiscuity of the whole population and the loss of the normal family unit becomes cause for radical change. The sacrifice of true art is another loss to the people of the great utopian society. Instead, the masses will simply settle for the "feelies and the scent organ instead" (Waitt 1). It is amazing to imagine such a drug that could control society so well that it dulls the senses totally to what should be apparent. Although the utopian society Huxley creates is quite efficient, it is missing something that has always been apparent in all previous civilizations. What this society is missing is the destructive minority or antagonist that keeps society in motion. Up until the novel begins, there is no one that challenges the system. John the savage is the only individual amongst the conditioned society that has logic. John refuses the drug because he understands the serious dangers of soma (Jog 71). Instead, everyone else is content, simply from taking soma and being narrow-minded. People are taught silly rhymes to increase their use of soma such as:
Hug me till you drug me, honey;
The rhythmic poems are conditioned into everyone to make soma the answer to all of life's everyday tasks. These conditioned responses are responsible for many of the actions and ideas. "The daily soma ration was an insurance against personal maladjustment, social unrest, and the spread of subversive ideas" (Hoffman 245).
Karl Marx once said that, "Religion is the opiate of the people." In this utopian society, the use of drugs serves as the religion (Hoffman 245). Their Solidarity Service is about as close as they are to any religious ceremonies. In these services, twelve citizens of the same caste use the soma as a sacrament along with repetitive group chants. The use of soma in religion raises the drug to a higher level among the people of this "Brave New World" (Huxley 82-83). Their services use the soma symbolically similar to the Last Supper of Christ. The soma is passed among the twelve people participating, like the twelve apostles at Christ’s Last Supper, and then the people involved chant repeated lines such as:
Come, Greater Being, Social Friend.
While they repeat these lines, they pass a cup similar to a chalice in a Christian ceremony and swallow their soma drink. Although this is quite absurd to the reader, it seems as if this ceremony is one of the few remnants left of our society that has been carried on to theirs.
Throughout the novel, one can observe the main characters abuse soma more and more often when the pressure is beginning to build. To forget problems or rejections, they take a little soma (Hoffman 245). The sad reality is that in this so-called "Brave New World," people are more cowardly than ever before. One would never dare to live but would rather die, never understanding the truth of human suffering and humility. Soma is merely a tool that is used to guide people all through life without ever truly having to face reality or make logical decisions. Soma symbolizes and shapes many parts of society and is arguably the main symbol in Huxley’s satirical masterpiece. The truth is that this utopian society is synthetic and massed produced like soma, and society is cowardly while soma is a crutch to humanity.
Clareson, Thomas. "The Classic: Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World.’"
Hoffman, Nicholas. "Huxley Vindicated." The Spectator 249.8036 (1982): 8-9.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: HarperPerennial, 1989.
Jog, D.V. Aldous Huxley The Novelist. India: Book Centre, 1979.
McGiveron, Rafeeq. "Huxley’s ‘Brave New World.’" Explicator 57.1 (1998): 27-30.
Meerloo, Joost. "How Will Man Behave?" The New York Times Book
"Escaping Reality" was written for Dr. Barbara Murray’s ENGL 1102 class during Spring 2001 semester by Patrick Hohol, who was then a sophomore majoring in Psychology.