Thoughts on Aldous Huxley's Island


While Island is a work of fiction, it is the vehicle Huxley used to communicate his ideas about how people in a good society would interact with each other and their environment. These web pages are not offering a literary critique of the novel, analyzing any symbolism, or even summarizing the novel. The plot is a wonderful story in its own right, and it's best to read the book, not a synopsis, to fully enjoy it. The goal here is to simply present Huxley's underlying ideas and philosophies upon which the novel is built. 
Just as many science-oriented movies start off with a child being taught something, or a news program, or some other educational device which is really for the benefit of the viewer, Huxley has his own "news reel" in Island so that the setting and events in the story are understood in context. The people of Pala (which is the island the title refers to) live their lives based on ideas representing the best that Eastern and Western philosophies have to offer. Neither philosophy is quite enough on its own, or maybe is too much, to live a full, balanced life. And it so happens that Pala's philosophies result from the hard work and combined ideas of two founding fathers, one a Buddhist and one an analytical medical doctor. Together they developed principles which the then-leader (the Raja) of Pala wrote down and entitled, "Notes on What's What, and What It Might be Reasonable to do about What's What." This is the tool Huxley provides so that we, the readers, can be educated in the principles underlying society on Pala. In the novel, the Notes are excerpted here and there and spread throughout. They've been gathered together here into one page which you can read by following the corresponding link below.
Island was written in 1962 and is Aldous Huxley's last novel. His shared insights represent some (much, perhaps?) of what he learned about being human during his lifetime (he died only a couple years after the publication of Island). The novel addresses a surprisingly large number of important issues along with Huxley's opinions about how current methods could be improved---dramatically, if he is correct. At the link below, some of these issues have been categorized with supporting quotations.

Throughout the novel, Huxley also offers a nice variety of poetry; happy, sad and contemplative poems. These are collected below. 

h_poetry.jpg (4272 bytes)

And to end this with a smile, here's one of the most amusing things I found regarding the book. During a conversation about newspapers and there being only one on Pala (page 150/295, or 0.51): 
"There's a panel of editors representing half a dozen different parties and interests. Each of them gets his allotted space for comment and criticism. The reader's in a position to compare their arguments and make up his own mind. I remember how shocked I was the first time I read one of your big-circulation newspapers. The bias of the headlines, the systematic one-sidedness of the reporting and the commentaries, the catchwords and slogans [...]"
And what did the publishers decide to adorn my paperback cover of Island with? 
"An intellectual teaser in the best Huxley tradition."---Time
Talk about catchwords and slogans. Huxley must be laughing!