HUXLEY & ORWELL POINTS OF VIEW
Jeremy S D wrote:
thank you for your comments about huxley's bio. i did not intend my original email to be antagonistic, but by the tone of yours, i understand you read it as such. much of what you shared with me about his life was enlightening and i plan to do some more reading myself.
i have read "brave new world" over 5 times and i've taught it four straight years to high school juniors in a british lit class, so i found the statement that your own reading of the novel "should be obvious to most readers" quite condescending. though i do not reject such a reading, i certainly don't think it is self-evident. after all, the book ends with a suicide...
it would be neat if your brave new world site one day rivaled the 1984 one, though you seem less a fan of huxley. i have had students use "orwell today" to do research for papers connecting the novel to current events. so thanks for making that resource available.
Jackie Jura responds:
Hello again Jeremy,
I am sorry if the tone of my letter came across as antagonistic. My only excuse (and it's silly I know) is that when someone doesn't have a salutation or a closing, ie hello and a goodbye, they seem impersonal to me and not friendly. But other than that your question was excellent and deserved an answer and so that's why I wrote you back and posted it on the site.
I also apologise if I sounded condescending regarding what to me is obvious about the author's point of view in BNW. Obviously I was wrong seeing as how you've read the book five times and didn't pick it up. If you read the intro to my Huxley/BNW section you see that I wrote it shortly after reading the book for the first time. My general feeling throughout the book was "repulsion" for the writer. It amazed me that such a book had become so famous and that Huxley had become a household word. When you scratch the surface of the guy he's a personification of a bloodless elite and that must have been what shone through to me.
But on another level I was glad that I'd read the book because it gave me greater insight into the evil we are fighting on this planet, as it no doubt did for Orwell as well. That's probably where he got the idea in 1984 where he describes a future where "children were begotten by artifical insemination (artsem) and brought up in public institutions" and where "children will be taken from their parents at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen."
Did you know that Huxley was a teacher at Eton for awhile and that Eric Blair was one of his students? Huxley was despised by the students who mocked him for his ineptitude. He hated teaching and looked down on his pupils and had nothing of interest to offer them. His classroom was chaos with students making fun of him and totally ignoring him. The only person who was kind to him at all was Eric Blair who, as part of his nature, always tried to understand the underdog. A great biography of Orwell is Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation by Jeffrey Myers, which is full of anecdotes from people who knew Blair as a boy and Orwell as a man.
After 1984 was published Huxley wrote Orwell a letter telling him his book was important but that he was wrong about the world being run with "a boot in the face forever". He said it would be run closer to what he'd espoused in BNW. And it turns out that Huxley will probably be right. Strange how he was so sure of all this in 1945 long before the chemical drugs of the 60s hit the streets - provided by peers of Huxley. Drugs and Pavlovian conditioning seemed to be the way Huxley et al imagined the human creature could be controlled. See my section Electric Shock Teaching In BNW.
Huxley was also no doubt knowledgeable about the secret experiments that were being perpetrated on the patients of Ewen Cameron in Montreal, Canada during the 50s. Cameron, who worked for Dulles and the CIA, used to give his patients big doses of LSD and then plug them into earphones while they slept - hoping to brainwash them. A Canadian documentary movie was made entitled THE SLEEP ROOM. A bit of that kind of thing is recognizable in BNW. Go to my section Sleep-Teaching In BNW.
Anyway, I told you earlier that I wasn't interested in writing much on Huxley and you are right, I'm not a fan of his, like I am a fan of Orwell. I admire Orwell incredibly as a writer and as a human being. Orwell is recognizable in all his books. As a matter of fact, most of his books are completely or partially autobiographical. Orwell is Winston in 1984, and Major in Animal Farm and Gordon in Keep the Aspidistra Flying and Flory in Burmese Days and I could go on and on but I'm sure you get the drift.
I'll ask you a question now. Do you recognize Huxley in any of the characters in BNW?
over and out,
PS. Thanks for sending your students to my site, and I'm glad it is of help to them. The main purpose of this webpage is to spread George Orwell's wisdom far and wide and to alert people to the possibility of the system he was describing. His work is vitally important.
Go to READERS' EMAIL for previous conversation and to BRAVE NEW WORLD
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