Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Eyeless in Gaza reflected a turning point in Huxley’s career. After the satire and skepticism which marked his early novels Crome Yellow (1921) and Antic Hay (1923), and the depressing vision of a scientifically engineered future in Brave New World (1932), he revealed a new seriousness of purpose, presenting a solution to the human predicament that formerly he had been content to satirize. In this sense, Eyeless in Gaza is one of the most optimistic of Huxley’s novels. It is also notable because it marks the beginning of Huxley’s interest in mysticism and Eastern metaphysics, an interest later given detailed exposition in The Perennial Philosophy (1945). Huxley’s espousal of pacifism tended to dismay some of his early admirers, however, who could not share his belief that pacifism offered a solution to the rampant militarism of the 1930’s. Others objected to what they saw as his retreat into an esoteric and impractical philosophy, and in consequence, the reviews of Eyeless in Gaza were not entirely favorable, although its first-year sales in England were more than double those of Brave New World.

Eyeless in Gaza is undoubtedly one of Huxley’s most absorbing and challenging novels. It represents his characteristic attempt, never entirely successful, to combine the form of the novel with that of the essay, the attempt to write “a novel in which one can put all one’s ideas, a novel like a holdall,” as he expressed it. Although some critics believe that Huxley’s tendency to use his novels as platforms for his own political and philosophical ideas had a detrimental effect on his work, Eyeless in Gaza represents a courageous and radical response to the latent nihilism and despair of twentieth century life.