Point Counter Point

by Aldous Huxley

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 355

Aldous Huxley undeniably became immortalized for the brilliance of his depiction of dystopia in Brave New World. During his lifetime, however, his success as a fiction writer was founded in his insightful satires of the social and intellectual set into which he had been born and bred but from which he increasingly felt alienated.

In Point Counter Point, Huxley concentrates his social critique on the extreme actions that political commitment combined with personal vengeance can drive men to commit. Sometimes with obvious scorn but often with subtle rebukes, Huxley peels back the layers of hypocrisy that he sees as shielding the British upper classes. He turns his unsparing critical gaze not only on politics, but on religion, science, marriage, love, and even the literary recognition that he enjoyed. The poignant juxtaposition of the Quarles’ true parental concern—albeit expressed too late—is one counterpoint of authentic feeling that he offers to the novel’s satiric point.

The inhabitants of the limited social world that Huxley portrays consider themselves cosmopolitan, even world-weary connoisseurs of all important areas of life. Their intellectual posturing hides the emptiness of their lives, as they apparently devote their energies to these lofty pursuits but actually expend more time in squandering their talents in meaningless affairs and petty vendettas. In Philip and Elinor, Huxley creates a couple who contrast their belief in their own authenticity with the sham that surrounds them. Yet the dissatisfied Elinor is drawn to Everard Webley, whose fascistic politics clearly render him inferior to her husband.

It may seem the author models the novelist character of Philip on himself, but Philip’s startling lack of insight casts doubt on that assumption. In a rather convoluted, almost stereotypically melodramatic plot, one intriguing twist is that Webley, with his detestable politics, becomes the victim rather than the villain. Although the political message of the novel is often buried under the lighter-hearted satirical tone, Spandrell’s homicide and the Freemen’s rapidly exacted revenge provide a serious undercurrent. Huxley suggests that cutting off the head of a dangerous movement, which he clearly identified in extreme nationalism, cannot destroy its popular appeal.

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