Soma in ‘Brave New World’: a Reflection of Escapism and Control

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Aldous Huxley’s 1932 dystopian novel, “Brave New World”, remains a touchstone in literary explorations of futuristic societies. At the heart of its disquieting vision lies ‘soma’, a drug central to the novel’s depiction of a world where true emotions and individuality are sacrificed for societal stability and superficial happiness. Soma, as depicted in Huxley’s narrative, is not just a means of escape but a tool of control, raising profound questions about the nature of happiness, freedom, and the role of government in individual lives.

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Soma in “Brave New World” is presented as the ideal pleasure drug. Free from side effects, it offers a quick escape from discomfort, pain, and even boredom, epitomizing the society’s ethos of instant gratification. The citizens of Huxley’s world consume soma regularly to maintain a sense of untroubled contentment and to conform to the societal norms that discourage negative emotions. The phrase “a gramme is better than a damn” becomes a mantra for avoiding the realities of life, encapsulating the society’s pervasive aversion to facing any form of discomfort.

The use of soma in the novel is a powerful commentary on the human desire for an easy escape from the trials and tribulations of life. Huxley prompts readers to consider the dangers of reliance on artificial means to achieve happiness and the potential consequences of such dependency. Soma’s role in the novel symbolizes a society that has traded its ability to experience genuine emotions, both good and bad, for a constant, numbing sense of contentment. This presents a paradox: a world that is free from pain but also devoid of the true essence of what it means to be human.

Furthermore, soma serves as a tool of societal control. The World State, Huxley’s envisioned government, uses soma to suppress dissent and ensure conformity among its citizens. By numbing the population’s capacity for critical thought and dulling their emotional range, the government maintains its power and control. This introduces a critical exploration of the balance between individual freedom and societal stability. Huxley’s use of soma as a means of control reflects his concerns about the growing power of governments and corporations, and the potential for abuse of that power in manipulating human behavior and thought.

The relevance of soma extends beyond the fictional world of “Brave New World” and resonates with contemporary issues. It serves as a metaphor for the various forms of escapism prevalent in modern society, such as addiction to drugs, technology, or consumerism. The novel provokes reflection on how these forms of escapism, while offering temporary relief or pleasure, might also serve as mechanisms of control, subtly influencing behaviors and choices.

In conclusion, soma in “Brave New World” is a multifaceted symbol that captures the novel’s central themes of escapism, control, and the sacrifice of human emotions for societal stability. Huxley’s portrayal of soma as an all-encompassing solution to life’s discomforts presents a stark warning about the dangers of overreliance on any substance or ideology that promises easy happiness. The novel challenges readers to ponder the true meaning of happiness and the cost at which it comes, a topic as relevant today as it was in Huxley’s time. In a world increasingly seeking quick fixes and comfortable illusions, “Brave New World” and its depiction of soma remain a powerful reminder of the need to balance the pursuit of pleasure with the acceptance of reality and the preservation of individual thought and emotion.

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Soma in 'Brave New World': A Reflection of Escapism and Control. (2023, Nov 17). Retrieved from