Rise to the Occasion Alyssa Henson

"ATTENTION!"

Every author has a purpose for their writings, whether it be for to entertain or inform. Aldous Huxley, author of Island, wrote for both, but specially, to demonstrate that humanity will rise to the expectation society sets for them.

In Utopianism, Mannheim believed that utopia’s function was to provide beliefs for people who wanted to overthrow the system while ideology is the belief of those that hold the power (Sargent 120). Huxley sculpted a world with new ideals centering on love, peace and being present. “A utopia can be simply a fantasy, it can be a description of a desirable or an undesirable society … [or] an alternative to be achieved” (Sargent 8). The island of Pala was an alternative to be achieved as well as a fantasy. Huxley knew such a world did not exist, however, it isn’t impossible for it to happen. The fantasy element is the shift from greed to love and success to being present. Pala’s citizens focus on taking care of one another and living in the moment which is shown by the birds who were taught how to say, “attention” and “here and now” to remind the people on the island to “pay attention to what’s happening” (Huxley 12).

Will Farnaby’s purpose for going to Pala was to gain access to Pala’s oil. However, over time his purpose changes. The night that the Rani sends a letter for Farnaby to meet with her, he chooses to reject her and see Lakshmi, who is dying. In this action, he finally takes a stand and chooses to do the right thing. Another factor that showed how Farnaby changed his mind was his connection with Mary Sarojini. She not only helped him physically, but emotionally by helping him face his fears (Huxley 15).

"Something even more tremendous is happening..."

For the researched closed reading, I choose the pages 306-313 which is the scene in which Will Farnaby refuses Murugan and the Rani, and goes with Mary Sarojini to be with the dying Lakshmi. This is a pivotal moment for Farnaby because he abandons his original mission and chooses a course, while extremely painful, that conforms to the Palanese way of life.

In my critical argument, I stated that Huxley wrote this book with the intent to demonstrate that humanity will rise to the expectation society sets for them. Within the selected pages, it clearly demonstrates this when Farnaby abandons the ruler of Pala, the most important person for his job, to be with a dying man. The Palanese way of life emphasizes love, peace and being present. Choosing Lakshmi shows love and respect for life and clearly demonstrates where his priorities are.

Huxley talked about the Island, and in 1962, he stated in an interview, “I want to show how humanity can make the best of both Eastern and Western worlds” (Beauchamp 59). While he is talking about two types of worlds, the emphasis is on what humanity can do. In another statement about the Island he said, “It’s a kind of fantasy, a reverse Brave New World, about a society in which real efforts are made to realize human potentialities,” which clearly shows his intentions to shed light on what humanity can do if pushed (Watt 149). Farnaby pushed himself with the help of society’s expectations and Mary. With the constant reminder to “pay attention” and “be present”, curtesy of the birds, and Mary’s persistence in making him face his demons, Farnaby changed and became a better human (Huxley 12). The author even concluded that he “becomes a disciple of the Palanese system of values” (Matter 149).

Farnaby finds himself in his exploitation when he has “an epiphany that discredits the world he has come from and reveals the purity of the Palanese way of living—according to the principles that will bring the greatest good for the greatest number of people” (Mughal). Pala’s society has strong emphasis in improving humanity. “Huxley’s vision of the perfect world is dyed in mystical colours. It is his search for salvation” (Pothen, Roy, Sunita 52). While Huxley was searching for his salvation, Will Farnaby was unknowingly doing the same.

In the selected pages, Farnaby has an internal conflict of doing the right thing and making his demons because of it. Farnaby does not question his decision to reject the Rani. Once he receives the letter, he sits, letting his anger build, and ignores the Rani’s son, Murugan. Murugan and Farnaby argue, resulting in Farnaby leaving with Mary to be with Lakshmi. But once they start making their way, Farnaby feels as though he is about to have a panic attack. The hospital where Lakshmi is reminds him of the hospital where is wife died. This brings flashbacks of his wife as well as guilt for cheating on her. Farnaby says, as he is being led by Mary, “Towards yet another manifestation of the Essential Horror and away from all hope of that blessed year of freedom which Joe Aldehyde had promised…” (Huxley 311). The “Essential Horror” he is referring to is death. Not only is he willingly going to a place that brings back painful memories but he is choosing a fate that will hurt his career.

Farnaby went to Pala for professional reasons, but in the end, Pala’s people and expectations changed him into a better man.

Reflection

Volunteering to be in the Social Action Curriculum Project (SACP) allowed me to express my viewpoints on the class materials and execution. The first two days participating in the project were discussion based where the class either gave praise or alternate solutions. Overall, I really enjoyed the class discussion because it gave us an opportunity to be heard and to feel more connected to the class. Some of the topics discussed were heteroglossia, metacognition, and diversity.

Heteroglossia is having an opinion that is improved by group discussion. It is not “group think” because, as it applies to this class, you read the books, forming opinions as you go and then, coming together as a group, present your theories and challenge them. You either realize that you don’t have enough textual evidence to back up your argument or strength it.

Megacognition is being aware of one’s own thought process. In this class, I do not believe my megacognition has not been improved. I learned at a young age that I have a very methodical and logical way of thinking which I apply to my writing style. I typically make outlines to organize my thoughts and did the same for this class.

Diversity is having multiple different elements. We had a diverse range of assignments which include drawings, reflections on current events and the required reading, and team compositions. However, we only had these assignment for each book. The consistency is welcomed, but it became mundane.

Overall, I enjoyed being a part of this project and having an opportunity to voice my opinion.

Resources

Beauchamp, Gorman. “Island: Aldous Huxley's Psychedelic Utopia.” Utopian Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 1990, pp. 59–72.

Huxley, Aldous. Island. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, New York, 1962-2009.

Mughal, Aliya. “What Does Aldous Huxley’s ‘Island’ Tell Us About the Essence of Humanity?” The Partially Examined Life: A Philosophy Podcast and Philosophy Blog. The Partially Examined Life, LLC, 17 August 2015

Pohen, Annie, Sumita Roy and K.S. Sunita. “Aldous Huxley and Indian Thought.” Sterling Publishers Private Limited, 2003.

Sargent, Lyman Tower. Utopianism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, New York, 2010.

William W. Matter. “The Utopian Tradition and Aldous Huxley.” Science Fiction Studies, vol. 2, no. 2, 1975, pp. 146–151.

Watt, Donald J. “Vision and Symbol in Aldous Huxley's Island.” Twentieth Century Literature, vol. 14, no. 3, 1968, pp. 149–160.

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