Aldous Huxley and the human cost of technological progress

Ronald T Sion, Salve Regina University


This dissertation examines Aldous Huxley's criticism of modern technological progress through an analysis of six of his novels that span four turbulent decades of the twentieth century. The thesis of this study is that these examples of Huxley's fiction demonstrate a constant concern for the power of technology to influence human values and that the authentic test of technological progress is the degree to which it aids or hinders society in its humane development. From his early novels that satirized the frivolous lives of the English upper class to his more probing works of anti-utopian themes, Huxley questioned a culture obsessed with materialism and a blind belief that the advance of technology will lead humanity to a higher and happier existence. The six novels fall into three divisions. Antic Hay is an early novel of social criticism that depicts the aimless or self-absorbed cultural elite following World War I. After Many a Summer Dies the Swan and Time Must Have a Stop are novels that expose the folly of materialism. Huxley's three futuristic novels depict worlds that can result if technology is allowed to progress unchecked, ostensibly for the betterment of humankind. Brave New World shows how mental conditioning and drugs can produce a mindless society devoid of human values. In Ape and Essence a nuclear war causes mankind to degenerate into ruthless animals. Only in Island, the most idyllic of these utopian novels, has humanity learned to accept those technologies that promote human advancement and to discard all others. Eastern thought became an important feature of Huxley's response to modern materialism. His personal letters and essays of this period also help elucidate the views found in his fiction—a distinguished series of imaginative novels that explore the dilemmas of modern culture in relationship to technology.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature|Social structure|Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Sion, Ronald T, "Aldous Huxley and the human cost of technological progress" (1999). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI9918180.