The idea of happiness is one of the key themes developed by Brave New World. Unlike other dystopias, this novel explores the frightening side of a generally happy society showing that happy people might produce an equally dismal impression as the evidently suffering characters of Orwell’s 1984. At first sight, it might appear that Huxley’s aim is to expose the futility of the happiness which is artificially cultivated so that it eventually supersedes all the other human feelings. Meanwhile, a close reading of the text shows that the author does not suggest that we should seek something else except happiness; instead, it shows that the modern idea of happiness is strongly distorted so that happiness, in the way it is interpreted now, is a very misleading orienting point.
In order to understand that it is not happiness but the modern conceptual idea of it that Huxley discloses, it is, first and foremost, necessary to examine the way happiness is interpreted by the inhabitants of the Brave New World. In this view, it might be argued that their idea of happiness is hedonistic in its roots confining itself to the sensual pleasures and unrestricted consumption. The spiritual element which constitutes an important part of happiness is totally excluded from the Brave New World. As such, the citizen’s chances to experience authentic moral pleasure are very limited. In his novel, Huxley reveals the major mistake of the modern society which tends to associate happiness with exclusively positive phenomena, be it a good job, a profitable buy or attractive appearance; while, in actual reality, happiness might take unexpected forms such as the relief one experiences after completing an unpleasant task or the contradictive feelings overwhelming a reader after finishing a genial though very sad novel. In other words, Huxley does not try to expose happiness; instead, he disapproves of the modern approach to interpreting happiness for its excessive simplicity and primitivism.
The superficiality of the modern idea of happiness is very well illustrated by Lenina’s philosophy. Interestingly, this philosophical concept coincides with what our modern mass media popularizes widely with its intense attempts to identify happiness with clean skin, fashionable clothes, and other materialistic aspects. It is essential to note that this one-dimensional interpretation of happiness is not accepted even by the residents of the Brave New World despite the fact that the most professional scientists have done their best to adjust their biology to be compliant with this primitivism. Meanwhile, the complexity of human nature, to which the right understanding of happiness is inherent, prevails, which is evidenced by the fact that the residents are supposed to take soma that suppresses their natural instinct for being authentically happy. For characters like Bernard, whose biology was not fully refined for that or another reason, even soma is unable to eliminate the instinctive rejection of the consumeristic happiness imposed by the Brave New World’s leaders as the only alternative. In this view, “instinctive” is an important remark because Lenina and Bernard still have a similar world view, what is inevitable in the context of the all-powerful state.
Finally, it might appear that Helmholtz, whose character comprises the traits of authentic humanism and undistorted morality, prefers to be unhappy accepting his alienation willingly. In the meantime, it should be argued that, unlike Bernard, Helmholtz evaluates adequately the value of the “happiness” offered by the Brave New World and has a clear understanding of the fact that he has more chances to become happy in a place which is free of an active cultivation of the artificial consumeristic happiness. In other words, it is important to realize that Huxley does not oppose the alternatives of being happy and being unhappy. Instead, he contraposes the authentic and the distorted ideas of happiness showing that only the former is worth the struggle.