Week 21: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

As ridiculous as this may be, I’m about to issue a spoiler alert for an 84-year-old book. If you don’t want to know the ending of Brave New World, read this ridiculous news story about Salman Rushdie rating classics low on Goodreads instead.


In the final chapter of Aldous Huxley’s remarkably futuristic Brave New World, John the Savage escapes the society that he’s rejected. In a lighthouse outside London, he whips himself to the point of vomiting over the guilt he feels for Linda’s death, as well as his sexual contact with Lenina.

Lenina finds him in the lighthouse, and with reporters and camera crews looking on, the Savage beats her with a whip before a riot breaks out. Then the riot turns into an orgy.

John awakens the next day, realizes what’s happened, and in a fit of self-loathing, he kills himself.

For a multitude of reasons, I’m not going to review Brave New World here (not the least of which are my meandering opinion of the book and the fact that it already has over 15,000 reviews on Goodreads). What I will do, however, is talk about that weird as fuck ending.

It’s actually in step with the book’s sex-phobic narrative, so that’s not what’s weird about it. What’s weird is that it feels like the whole book (which was a fascinating, mind-blowingly far sighted depiction of a future written in the 30s) was just a precursor to this vomit-whipping-riot-orgy-suicide.

What in the world could possess Huxley to write something so controversial and explosive?

His brother, as it turns out.

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When Aldous was just 20, his brother Trevenen Huxley (great name) hanged himself. Fraught with a sense of dynastic inadequateness, Trevenen failed to live up to a seemingly unbearably pressure-filled family (having been descended from great thinkers Matthew Arnold and Thomas Huxley). In 1913, Trevenen did poorly on the Civil Service exam and this sent him into a spiral of depression (given his second-rate intellectual status, a fate worse than death in his family).

He was sent to the Hermitage, a private nursing home in Surrey. He was diagnosed with “Nerves,” but his true affliction was at last revealed in his younger brother Julian’s 1970 biography: Trevenen had fallen in love with one of the maids at his family’s country estate.

She was attractive and intelligent, but she was common. Trevenen, of course, attempted to “save” her from her station, taking her to plays, lectures, and the like. But it didn’t take.

A Huxley simply couldn’t marry a housemaid, it was thought. Aldous, as we know, went on to be a famous novelist. Julian went on to become one of the most famous zoologists in the world. It’s thought that Trevenen was sent to the Hermitage for the sole reason of separating him from the maid.

While he was there, he heard that she was pregnant. Unable to raise the child with her, Trevenen left the Hermitage for a walk and was never again seen alive. He was found more than a week later hanging in the nearby woods.

The ending of Brave New World reeks of Trevenen’s death. Had Aldous’ brother done the right thing in an immoral world? Had he done the wrong thing, and rightfully punished himself for it? Were servants forever meant to serve?

The matter is further complicated by the fact that Aldous had also lost his virginity to a housemaid, just a year before Trevenen’s death.

Was Trevenen the weaker or the stronger of the Huxley brothers? Brave New World feels like Aldous trying to decide. I can’t figure out if he came to a conclusion.


Acknowledgments

Kira just posted a new piece on Sorry Television. That’s all you should need to know. Everything she writes is amazing and you should be reading her. [Sorry Television]

Elle over at Elle Thinks just read Anne Leckie’s Ancillary series of space operas, which is awesome. You never see bloggers write about these kinds of books, so that’s cool. (She also writes about The Vegetarian, which is supposed to be outstanding.) [Elle Thinks]

May I present the early favourite for funniest blog post title of 2016. [Writereads]

Modernism. Ugh. [Interesting Literature]

I can’t decide whether I love or hate this cover, but Carolyn recommends reading it so that’s all you need to know. She’s never wrong. I’m serious. [Rosemary and Reading Glasses]

As someone who’s always been tempted to read the dictionary all the way through–writing down the words I don’t know so I can remember them later–this vocabulary-building challenge is right up my alley. [ebookclassics]

Wild Places. New book blog you should follow. DO IT. [Wild Places]

Are you following Laura Frey on Twitter? Duh. [@LauraTFrey]


A Book I Can’t Wait to Read

25618818Rosalie Lightning is Eisner-nominated cartoonist Tom Hart’s beautiful and touching graphic memoir about the untimely death of his young daughter, Rosalie. His heart-breaking and emotional illustrations strike readers to the core, and take them along his family’s journey through loss. Hart uses the graphic form to articulate his and his wife’s on-going search for meaning in the aftermath of Rosalie’s death, exploring themes of grief, hopelessness, rebirth, and eventually finding hope again.

Hart creatively portrays the solace he discovers in nature, philosophy, great works of literature, and art across all mediums in this expressively honest and loving tribute to his baby girl. Rosalie Lightning is a graphic masterpiece chronicling a father’s undying love.

*Summary taken from Goodreads

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17 thoughts on “Week 21: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

      1. Ahaha–that sounds eminently likely. I was reading it instead of paying attention in drivers’ ed, so possibly I just lumped it in with all of the other information I didn’t plan to retain.

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  1. You know, I’d completely forgotten the ending to Brave New World. That’s bonkers. Good knowledge.

    Also, thank you! And also, I read & reviewed Ancillary Justice last year and it was SO GOOD. I held off on buying the second book until the third came out, and I’ve stopped buying books for the moment and now I’m regretting it, as well as this run-on sentence.

    Re: cover: I was too busy being grateful it doesn’t feature a featureless woman’s face to think too much about it. But the Chrysler Tower does play a role in the novel. I think the font is a tad generic, don’t you?

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    1. The generic-ness is what I’m talking about. Its a strangely bold move, going that bland. But I kinda like it. It almost looks like a non-fiction book or something.

      I so don’t remember your review of Ancillary Justice. I’ll have to go read it. And then read the book. Elle + Carolyn = buy that damn book.

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  2. Whoa, thanks for this, it was actually much more interesting than the book! I’d kind of blocked out the ending. This is a fascinating back story, I wish I’d known it going in.

    Ha, thanks for the shoutout. I guess I’d better make sure I have new content every once in a while. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dangit, I didn’t understand how the pingback worked. Stupid technological blog terms.
    Thank you for the nomination. I can always be relied upon for toilet humour.

    And yes, Carolyn is always right. Seriously.

    Also, thanks for the reminder to take a closer gander at Rosalie Lightning in the store.

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  4. This is what I want to read about classics. Too often, classics reviews are plot summary, or “this is good because,” or “this is important because,” and it’s like, I know the plot, I know it’s good, and I know it’s important. Hence, classic.

    Anyway, like everyone else in your comments, I do NOT remember this orgy thing AT ALL. WTF. I wasn’t even that young when I read it, I think it was one of my “short classic” picks when I was trying to get to 100/1001 books. So maybe 4-5 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve kind of decided this is how I’ll write about books now. If it’s something I think most people haven’t read or don’t know much about (like The Sculptor, which I wrote about right after Brave New World) it’s probably going to be more of a summary/sell job. Because I want people to go read it. When it comes to classics, I couldn’t possibly have anything new to add to the discussion of whether or not a person should read it. In these cases, backstory and history and weird stuff is a lot more interesting. Glad you liked it!

      The orgy is more subtle than it sounds. It’s more implied than outright described. So I’m not surprised it didn’t stick in people’s memories.

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