The central character, Anthony Beavis, is clearly an autobiographical figure and a mouthpiece for the issues which occupied Huxley’s mind in the mid-1930’s.
Throughout the novel, Anthony is acutely aware of his own weaknesses. Even as a child, he is skilled at concealing his true feelings, and yet he dislikes himself for doing so. He chooses his aristocratic friends not because he likes them but because it satisfies his vanity to be with them. He is also aware that the reason he hides behind the mask of the detached philosopher is that personal relationships have always been disagreeable to him. His relationship with Helen consists entirely of sensual satisfactions, without any sense of responsibility or commitment. He also knows that he is a moral coward (as the sad story of his involvement with Joan and Brian reveals) and discovers that he is also a physical coward when he is threatened with a gun by a Mexican in a hotel bar. What frees him in the end is his acute intellect, his honesty, and his highly developed sense of self-awareness, all of which combine to ensure that he eventually recognizes the futility of his attitudes. After meeting Miller, he is able to redirect his life toward greater integrity and wholeness.
The other main characters embody various wrong approaches to living. Mary’s life demonstrates that the merely sensual life is ultimately destructive. At the outset, she is an attractive, seductively charming woman with a gently self-mocking sense of humor, but she degenerates rapidly during the course of the novel. Becoming a slave to her excessive sexual desires, she lives a dissolute life beyond her means and sinks into poverty and morphine addiction.
Mark is in one sense the opposite of Mary. He is...
(The entire section is 722 words.)