Thursday, May 10, 2012

Aldous Huxley’sBrave New World

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It is an accepted fact that all writers draw upon their own frame of reference when they write. Sometimes, their experiences are cleverly disguised; while other times, they are crystal clear. One can see by reading, Aldous Huxleys Brave New World that many of his own personal experiences are juxtaposed in his work. Both of Huxleys parents were members of the intellectual elite. His father was the son of Thomas Henry Huxley, a great biologist who collaborated on the development of the theory of evolution. His mother was the sister of Mrs. Humphrey Ward, the novelist; the niece of Matthew Arnold, the poet; and the granddaughter of Thomas Arnold, a famous educator. Clearly, his genetic heritage and upbringing had a distinct effect on his writings.

Huxleys uniqueness was apparent from his earliest years. As a young child, he was respected for his alertness, inquisitiveness and intelligence far beyond his years. Huxley ascribed to the belief that individuality is crucial for freedom. This paradigm is clearly evidenced in Brave New World, where the protagonist fights the class-instituted slavery, which was developed to insure happiness. His mothers death from cancer, when he was just 14, served to reinforce his belief of the transitory nature of human happiness. This fact appears in Brave New World, as the Utopians go to great lengths to forestall the inevitability of death, by their eternal pursuit of carnal pleasure.

While attending Eton, Huxley developed an eye illness which rendered him nearly blind. However, undaunted, he recovered his vision sufficiently and went on to attend Oxford, graduating with honors. His years at Oxford had a profound effect on his craft. While there, Huxley became a contemporary of such distinguished writers as Lytton Strachey, Bertrand Russell and D. H. Lawrence. His first book, a poetry anthology, was published in 116.

He married Maria Nys in 11 and his only child, a son, was born in 10. When visiting America, the confidence, vitality and “generous extravagance” of the American people impressed Huxley. However, his sensitive, artistic nature was offended by the way this vitality was expressed in places of public amusement, in dancing and motoring... Nowhere, perhaps, is there so little conversation... It is all movement and noise, like the water gurgling out of a bath--down the waste. Yes, down the waste. Huxley said that, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is Music”. This frenetic pursuit of happiness became an important part of the storyline of Brave New World. This artificial state of happiness induced through sensory indulgences kept the human mind from seeking truths. Huxley stated that, “An unexciting truth may be eclipsed by a thrilling lie.”

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Other influences for Huxleys novel of dystophia were his experiences in Fascist Italy under Mussolinis authoritarian government, which opposed birth control, because it would limit the numbers of troops for future wars. The books he read which were critical of the Soviet Union’s totalitarianism also influenced him. Another important influence on Huxley was George Orwells book, 185, which presented a frightening view of a world of tyranny and warfare.

Huxley continued his quest for personal and professional growth, which brought him to Hollywood in 18. While writing screenplays, his philosophical and scientific nature prompted him to write another novel which caricatures what he saw as the strange life there After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. In it the tycoon Jo Stoyte attempts to achieve immortality through scientific experimentation, even if it means relinquishing her humanity and returning to the completely animal state- once again, an echo of Brave New World.

Huxley wrote Brave New World in 11. At that time, the social ills described in his novel were of a prophetic nature. However, his follow-up book, Brave New World Revisited, written in 158, was a set of essays on the real-life government and social ills, which Huxley believed were mirror images of the tools described in his first novel that the government used to deprive people of individual freedom.

Art often imitates life and as Huxley grew older, he sought a means to escape the ugliness and inequity, which he saw in everyday life. He turned to psychedelic drugs, like mescaline and LSD. Huxleys foray into the world of mind-expanding drugs produced several works, most importantly, Island, which is his antidote to Brave New World. Interestingly, in Brave New World, Huxley deplores the drug, Soma, which is part tranquilizer, part intoxicant, because it rendered its user docile and freedomless. However, in Island, he lauds the drug LSD which the people in his novel use for religious purposes. Huxley’s fascination with the effect that psychedelics had on the mind is expressed in Doors of Perception (16). In there he states the belief that, “Though the intellect remains unimpaired and though perception is enormously improved, the will suffers a profound change for the worse. The mescaline taker sees no reason for doing anything in particular and finds most of the causes for which, at ordinary times, he was prepared to act and suffer, profoundly uninteresting. He cant be bothered with them, for the good reason that he has better things to think about”.

As a writer, Huxley has been criticized with allowing his individual ideas to obscure the development of character and plot. However, British literary critic, Anthony Burgess has stated that this is not the case. Rather, he believes that Huxley merely equips his novels with a brain. The range of Huxleys interests can be seen from his note that his preliminary research for Island included Greek history, Polynesian anthropology, translations from Sanskrit and Chinese of Buddhist texts, scientific papers on pharmacology, neuropsychology, psychology and education, together with novels, poems, critical essays, travel books, political commentaries and conversations with all kinds of people, from philosophers to actresses, from patients in mental hospitals to tycoons in Rolls-Royces.... He used similar, though probably fewer, sources for Brave New World.

In addition to the 47 books Huxley produced during his illustrious career as a writer, he also wrote an essay which became the inspiration for todays ecology movement. In 15, the American Academy of Arts and Letters gave him the Award of Merit for the Novel, a prize given every five years. Among earlier recipients have been Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Mann, and Theodore Dreiser.

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