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Huxley, Aldous

social book arnold thomas

(British, 1894–1963)

Aldous Huxley was born into a family of intellectuals; his grandfathers were Thomas Huxley, a colleague of Darwin, and Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby school and father of the poet, Matthew Arnold. One of Aldous's aunts was the best-selling novelist, Mrs Humphry Ward, and his brother Julian was a scientist and writer. There is a combination of the intellectual and the moral at the heart of Huxley's novels. In 1928 he published Point Counter Point, perhaps his best book, in which a galaxy of characters across a range of times and places comment on morals, behaviour, and culture. However, the book to start with is Brave New World (1932). It is set seven centuries in the future where the dates are all AF (After Ford). Humans are divided into five castes, ruled by the Alphas and Betas at the top. Children are bred in bottles and sex is for recreation only; long-term relationships are frowned upon and people's rebellious urges are subdued by use of the drug soma. The central figure is Bernard Marx, a social isolate, who decides to visit one of the ‘savage reservations’ where ‘Indians’ preserve the old, ‘dirty’ ways. When he returns he brings back a young man; tragedy inevitably follows. Huxley's last novel, Island (1962), was on a similar theme. Here, however, pleasure and drugs among a community on a Pacific island bring personal freedom, and it is western capitalism which finally destroys them.

George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene. See SOCIAL ISSUES  IP

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