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Aldous Huxley in evolution : the novels 1921-1935

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Hallam, Margaret(Margaret Jean) (1988) Aldous Huxley in evolution : the novels 1921-1935. Unspecified thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

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.

Item Type: Thesis (Unspecified)
Keywords: Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963
Copyright Holders: The Author
Additional Information:

Bibliography: leaf 84. Thesis (M.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1989

Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2014 23:58
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:55
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