University of Tasmania
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Aldous Huxley in evolution : the novels 1921-1935

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posted on 2023-05-26, 23:32 authored by Hallam, MJ
This study argues that the novels of Aldous Huxley written 1921-1939 reflect the influence of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species on the loss of faith and decline of traditional spiritual values representative of those times. An introduction places Huxley, his work and ideas, against the background of the late 19th century literary and scientific scene. It examines his position as a writer of popularity and influence in the years between the World Wars, in relation to his struggle to achieve a new perspective and sense of value. It also places Huxley in a critical context, suggesting that, while the decline in his literary reputation over the past 40 years reflects his weaknesses as a writer, his contribution to 20th century literature's revaluation of the role of man in an evolving universe, although generally overlooked, is significant. The first chapter looks at the ways in which Huxley's first two novels, Crome Yellow (1921) and Antic Hay (1923), express his growing sense of the social and spiritual isolation of the individual in an evolving world, a world described by Darwin as 'an inextricable web of affinities'. This sense is brought about by his perception of the inadequacy of viewing the world in the traditional way, as a hierarchical ordering of creation with man at the apex, in God's image. The second chapter pursues this sense of isolation to its most extreme expression, the fear of death, found in the novels of the late twenties, Those Barren Leaves (1925) and Point Counter Point (1928). This fear, part of Huxley's rejection of the physical basis of human existence, is related to Darwin's influence on contemporary assumptions about mortality and change. It is seen to lead to a bleak and despairing interpretation of mankind's nature and destiny. Huxley's sense of the irreconcilable divisions in human existence is suggested to be a reflection of his divided sense of self: from it sprang a spiritual and philosophical impasse from which no positive or developing theme could emerge. The third chapter examines the ways in which this impasse was gradually resolved in the novels of the thirties, Brave New World (1931) and Eyeless in Gaza (1935). A more positive outlook is seen to correspond to a growing acceptance of self as a physical and emotional being, as well as a rational and spiritual one. Darwin's unifying vision of the universe, and the optimism he expressed with his interpretation of evolution as 'progress towards perfection; are incorporated into Huxley's mature outlook. A sense of an inherent division in human existence remains, but is able to be placed in a wider perspective of universal harmony.


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Copyright 1988 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Bibliography: leaf 84. Thesis (MA)--University of Tasmania, 1989

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