Aldous Huxley

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Aldous Huxley Long Fiction Analysis

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Aldous Huxley’s novels present, on the whole, a bitterly satiric and cynical picture of contemporary society. Recurring themes in these works are the egocentricity of the people of the twentieth century, their ignorance of any reality transcending the self, their loneliness and despair, and their pointless and sordid existence. Devoid of any sense of ultimate purpose, the world often appears to Huxley as a wilderness of apes, baboons, monkeys, and maggots, a veritable inferno, presided over by the demon Belial himself. The dominant negativism in the novelist’s outlook on life is pointedly and powerfully revealed by Will Farnaby, a character in Huxley’s book Island, who is fond of saying that he will not take yes for an answer.

Although Huxley finds the contemporary world largely hopeless, he reveals the possibility of redemption. Little oases of humanity, islands of decency, and atolls of liberated souls generally appear in his fictional worlds. A good number of his characters transcend their egos, achieve completeness of being, recognize the higher spiritual goals of life, and even dedicate their lives to the service of an indifferent humanity. Even Will Farnaby, who will not take yes for an answer, finally casts his lot with the islanders against the corrupt and the corrupting world. It is true that these liberated individuals are not, in Huxley’s novels, a force strong enough to resist the onward march of civilization toward self-destruction, but they are nevertheless a testimony to the author’s faith in the possibilities of sanity even in the most difficult of times. No one who agrees with Huxley’s assessment of the modern world will ask for a stronger affirmation of faith in human redemption.

Huxley believed that humankind’s redemption lies in the attainment of “wholeness” and integrity. His concept of wholeness did not, however, remain the same from the beginning to the end of his career. As he matured as a novelist, Huxley’s sense of wholeness achieved greater depth and clarity. Under the influence of D. H. Lawrence, Huxley viewed wholeness in terms of the harmonious blending of all human faculties. Writing under the influence of Gerald Heard, he expanded his idea of wholeness to include a mystical awareness of the unity of humanity with nature. Influenced by the Eastern religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, Huxley gave his concept of wholeness further spiritual and metaphysical depth.

Crome Yellow

In Crome Yellow, his first novel, Huxley exposes the egocentricity of modern human beings, their inability to relate to others or to recognize any reality, social or spiritual, outside themselves, and the utter pointlessness of their lives. Jenny Mullion, a minor character in the novel, symbolically represents the situation that prevails in the modern world by the almost impenetrable barriers of her deafness. It is difficult for anyone to carry on an intelligent conversation with her. Once, early in the book, when Denis Stone, a poet, inquires of Jenny if she slept well, she speaks to him, in reply, about thunderstorms. Following this ineffectual conversation, Denis reflects on the nature of Jenny Mullion: Parallel straight linesmeet only at infinity. He might talk for ever of care-charmer sleep and she of meteorology till the end of time. Did one ever establish contact with anyone? We are all parallel straight lines. Jenny was only a little more parallel than most.

Almost every character in the novel is set fast in a world that he or she has made and cannot come out of that world to establish contact with others. Henry even declaims, “How gay and delightful life would be if one could get rid of all the human contacts!” He is of the view that “the proper study of mankind is books.” He obviously undertook his history of his family, which took him twenty-five years to write and four years to print, in order to escape human contacts. If Henry is occupied with the history of Crome (his family home),...

(The entire section is 6,122 words.)