Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Aldous Huxley's satire on Darwinism

An audio presentation from NBC University Theater [June 5th, 1951]...

After Many A Summer Dies The Swan

Complete text...

After Many A Summer Dies The Swan

From Wikipedia...

The action revolves around a few main characters brought together by a Hollywood millionaire, Jo Stoyte. Each character represents a different philosophy of living life. Stoyte, in his sixties and fearing death, finds himself in deep contemplation of life. Enlightenment eludes him, however, as he is ruled by fear and craving. Stoyte hires Dr Obispo and his assistant Peter to research the secrets to long life in carp, crocodiles, and parrots. To set up Stoyte's wealth and work as a satiric foil, Jeremy, an English archivist and literature expert, is brought in to archive a rare collection of books. Jeremy's presence highlights Stoyte's shallow attitude toward the rare art only he can afford. The final characters are Virginia, Stoyle's young mistress, and Mr Propter, a professor who lives on a neighboring estate. Mr Propter believes:

For every individual is called on to display not only unsleeping good will but also unsleeping intelligence. And this is not all. For, if individuality is not absolute, if personalities are illusory figments of a self-will disastrously blind to the reality of a more-than-personal consciousness. So that even intelligence is not sufficient as an adjunct to good will; there must also be the recollection which seeks to transform and transcend intelligence.

This is most akin to Huxley's personal beliefs which he cultivated and refined throughout his life and novels. Though other characters achieve conventional success, even happiness, only Mr Propter does so without upsetting anyone or creating evil.

Dr Obispo places great faith in science and medicine as a saviour of humankind. He sees everyone as a stepping stone to science, the greater good, and thus only derives happiness at others' expense. According to Propter's philosophy, he is trapped in ego-based "human" behaviour that prevents him from reaching enlightenment. Obispo seduces Virginia in a characteristically egotistical way. She is unable to resist him despite her loyalty to Stoyte. When she is found out by Stoyte, he wishes to kill Obispo but accidentally kills Peter (whose thoughts and morals had slowly started to expand under Propter's tutelage) instead. Obispo covers this up for money and continued research facilities. This takes him, along with Virginia and Stoyte, to Europe, where they find an immortal human, who now resembles an ape. Stoyte cannot grasp that transcendence or goodness should be one's ultimate goal, rather than prevention of death, and expresses his wish to undergo treatment so that he too will live forever.

Survival & freedom in America

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