After reading Aldous Huxley’s dystopian classic “Brave New World,” a book that described a nation which adopted behaviors that destroyed the freedom of its inhabitants by placing them under multiple controls and which hindered their opportunity to develop by engineering their births, and reading Huxley’s follow-up book “Brave New World Revisited” where he described in detail why he thinks the present world is turning into a copy of “Brave New World,” I decided to read “Island,” which is the opposite. It tells about a utopia, a remote Pacific island called Pala, which became an ideal society 120 years ago. “Brave New World” was published in 1932 by Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), “Brave New World Revisited” in 1958, and “Island” in 1962, a year before his death.
I found that I like “Island” the best. The story is very good, the characters are interesting, the good people likable and those who are evil or have bad intentions interesting. Most of all, I found his criticisms of virtually everything outside of the utopia Pala to be true. He addressed many things, such as our medicine emphasizing treatments rather than methods to avoid illness, our psychology focusing on the bad elements of the subconscious rather than also examining the good elements, the need for people to engage in work not just exercise, our politicians being generally interested in accumulating money, power, and glory for themselves and having a single leader over a country is harmful, and religion on the island is not encourages. In Pala, Buddhism is preferred, the enjoyment of sex is encouraged, there is an emphasis on paying attention to the here and now, children having difficulties at home can move from one family to another, prisons do not exist in Pala which uses indoctrination in its place, population is controlled so there is no food shortages.
I did not agree with all that Huxley admired, especially not with his encouragement to use hallucinogenic drugs, but I found his thinking and proposals to be thought-provoking.
In the novel, peaceful Pala faces attacks from three main sources. The outside world, especially an island ruled by a dictator wants to conquer Pala, control it, and sell its oil. Pala has no weapons and is opposed to its use. A descendant of the rulers of Pala will be age 18 in a short time and is enamored by the behavior of that dictator and wants to lead Pala in that direction. The boy is fascinated by the many items sold in the more than thousand page Sears catalogue and wants many of them, items unnecessary in a utopia. A visitor to the island, a journalist, does not disclose that he is aiding a man who like the dictator also wants to control Pala’s oil, a man who paid him well and promised a large bonus if he succeeds in his mission. The people of Pala show the journalist their island and tell him their ideas. Will he be persuaded to somehow aid the island? Will the near 18-year-old change his mind? How will the aggressive dictator be handled?