Essay on Guilt: The Glue of Morals



Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World, is a dystopia in which the meaning of virtue is twisted. The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning says that the key to obtaining happiness and virtue is; ‘liking what you've got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny”(17, Huxley). This man is stating that one should settle for what they have because they cannot change it. He is implying that if one wants to be happy they have to accept their fate in the Brave New World and to be virtuous they cannot rebel against it. People are being brainwashed into believing their happiness depends on the society's flourishment. Instilled with fear, they now believe that in order to be virtuous they must be slaves to the secession of the society. The values of the Brave New World are selfish, nefarious, and unethical, and if the people knew they wouldn't oblige, instead they are told lies about its virtue. Similarly, in Shakespeare's, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth persuades her husband to go against his morals alluding him to believe it’s for his benefit. Both Brave New World and Macbeth portray wrongly justified and immoral endeavors which are excused in order to prevent guilt from threatening the success of the desired ambition.

Macbeth Guilt

In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth uses persuasion and his weaknesses to manipulate Macbeth. Macbeth's prophecy of kingship became an idea that Lady Macbeth was determined to make a reality, considering it would make her queen. Lady Macbeth firstly wanted to make herself capable of not getting in the way of his success so she asked the universe, “...Come you spirits, That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe topful, of direst cruelty”(1.5. 40-43). Lady Macbeth wants to rid herself of any and all moral thoughts because in order to convince her husband to kill Duncan she must feel no guilt. She asks to be “unsexed” because in order to persuade a man she needed to think like a man. If she is not cruel and gives no care about morality, she will suffer the burden of regret. When Macbeth expresses his doubts about killing Duncan, Lady Macbeth says, “ From this time, Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard, To be the same in thine own act and valor, As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that, Which thou esteem’ st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem”(1.7.38-43). 

Lady Macbeth is using their relationship and love to manipulate him into doing as she pleases. With intent to demean, she calls him a coward for not taking this opportunity. Calling him a “coward’ triggers his masculinity’s defense mechanism,  She is trying to make him believe that if he kills Duncan it would express his love for her. Lady Macbeth continues to explain to him that if he doesn't do this he is not a real man. Consequently, he now has the means to believe that the murder is justified because it is for love, power, and validation of his manhood. Although Lady Macbeth gets him fired up with motivation, once he kills Duncan he is guilty and conscious comes flooding back. Lady Macbeth says to her frightened husband, “ My hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white”(2.2.64-65). Their hands were both red from the blood of the dagger, but Lady Macbeth explains that she would be ashamed to be full of so much regret. Macbeth had a decision to make, stick to his moral values, or be free of them by giving himself a reason not to feel guilty. 

The guilt was holding together his morals and the second he decided to excuse his wrongdoings his guilt could no longer hold him back. Whether it is his fault for choosing to excuse it or Lady Macbeth for manipulating him, nevertheless, it is evident that if one believes they are doing what is best for them they won't back out due to guilt. Eventually, the guilt comes back to haunt them, mostly because the comforting justifications are all a bunch of lies, but it still changed him. Although in Macbeth the guilt-free motivation is fleeting, in Brave New World, it is acknowledged that human emotions cannot be self suppressed, so they begin inventing.

Guilt in Brave New World

In the book Brave New World, the motto of the world state is “Community, Identity, Stability”(7 Huxley). Everything anyone does in the Brave New World is always in the interest of those three concepts. The success of the society is held most precious and everything and everyone must benefit it. While maintaining community, identity, and stability, immoral endeavors take place. The Brave New World thrives on unruly behavior, but the justifications that the Director of Hatchery and Conditioning pleads to his students are shocking. For example, infants are taken to a room in which they are shown flowers and books, an explosion occurs, which leads to fear and tears from the babies. 

They then offer the children books and flowers and those who want them to get an electric shock. All for what purpose? So that they will be programmed to associate flowers and books with terror and pain. The worst part is this is explained to the students as a positive thing. The director says “They’ll be safe from books and botany all their lives”(22). This is being justified because society believes books are dangerous, and as for the flowers? Well, it happens to be that these babies were from predestined social classes which were once allowed to go to the country to look at flowers, but because they were only spending their money on transportation to there and not on other things they are forbidden from going. Society was not benefiting enough from the people so it became forbidden for them to look at flowers. 

The director simply states “A love of nature keeps no factories busy”(23). They believe there is no point for people to love something that won't benefit the society.  It is immoral to torture an infant and reprogram its brain to dislike something, but to them, it's just collateral damage to maintaining the success of the society. They aren’t only brainwashing infants, but continue to children and even adults. The director discusses the brain and says that “The mind that judges and desires and decides -- made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions!”(29). Free will is taken away to create minds that are made to agree with and obey the state. Brains are programmed to believe these immoral endeavors are for a good reason.  

Hypomania which is a brainwashing technique in which they force people who are unconscious to learn and consume recordings, which eventually become engraved in their minds. This technique is used to instill the values of the state in their minds. If they have no guilty conscience they won’t oppose the threat to the agenda. Ordinarily, people's minds are invaded to be programmed to think it is necessary to do so for society. Even the people brainwashing people have originally been brainwashed to do so. In order to successfully maintain the “perfect” society guilt has to be eliminated to normalize the idea of prioritizing the society without realizing they are slaves to it. In Macbeth burying one's guilt was a temporary solution, which only caused them more pain in the future, whereas here they live their lives as a lie to permanently forget about how they are all hurting each other and themselves for the society. 

To be successful you must be determined, you must have a purpose. Unfortunately, some people have ambitions which require immoral actions to be obtained. Guilt is a burden that keeps our morals in line; it makes one feel terribly, which allows second-guessing. The real question is whether or not someone’s success is prioritized over their morals. One must ask themselves if it is worth it to give up their core moral values. When one gives up their values they lose a part of themselves I personally believe no ambition is worth self-loss. Justifying, why one went against their morals provides a brief relief, but a forever impact on personality. Guilt is a formidable and principle feeling because it’s pivotal demeanor can save one from doing something that compromises their morals. When one wishes away guilt or finds a reason which conceals it, they are giving up the emotion which protects their worst selves. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the desire to succeed ultimately tests one’s priorities and strength. Both Brave New World and Macbeth, are examples of what it is like when someone makes an ambition a priority. In order to succeed, they acknowledge that they must rid themselves of guilt. They know what they're doing is wrong and they don’t want to be reminded or stopped by themselves. Yes, guilt is a terrible feeling and it can be burdening and all-consuming, but when one doesn’t allow themselves to feel it they strip themselves of their humanity. They become ruthless, chaotic, and immoral. Having an ambition is great, wanting it to succeed is also great, but at what cost?