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|Title:||Antic Hay: a Study in Post-War Disillusionment|
|Authors:||Mulvihill, Dalton James|
|Keywords:||English Language and Literature;English Language and Literature|
|Abstract:||<p>In Antic Hay, Aldous Huxley wanted, as he stated, to depict the "life and opinions" of the post-war generation. The considerable critical and popular response elicited by the newly published novel indicates that Huxley had indeed made a statement which, at the time, was of urgent importance to his contemporaries. Reader reaction varied from virulent condemnation to an uneasy acknowledgement of the author's talents to outright acceptance. Significantly, Antic Hay received its most enthusiastic reception from Huxley's immediate contemporaries -- the young members of the post-war generation for whom the novel had been written.</p> <p>Whatever it was that attracted or repelled Antic Hay's original readers was a quality inherent in the fiction itself which embodied or reflected a transformation of sensibility taking place at the time. If some readers deplored the surface flippancy and the seemingly irresponsible brutality of the novel, others saw in these same features a fundamental seriousness. Huxley himself maintained that his intention in writing Antic Hay was entirely serious and explained any possible confusion as arising from the novel's incongruous blend of farce and tragedy, fantasy and realism. And, in fact, his conviction that farce could at once mask and yet effectively convey a sense of tragedy constitutes the basic premise of Antic Hay.</p> <p>Set in the London of the 1920's, Antic Hay partakes of the decade's mood of pessimism and abandoned hedonism. Always behind the reckless gaiety of cabaret scenes and night excursions, behind the mocking cynicism which animates the novel's dialogue, is a profound sense of disillusionment. This disillusionment has originated in the Great War which, concentrated in the figure of Myra Viveash, casts its shadow over the existence of all the novel's characters. The War's influence on the fictional world of Antic Hay is pervasive. Evoked through allusions and fragments of personal memory, it provides the appropriate cultural perspective from which to consider the novel's events. The cynical rejection of past values and beliefs springs from a consciousness of imminent cultural dissolution which has rendered impotent the capacity for positive vision. The hopelessness of such a plight is shown by the desperate attempt to escape a consciousness of spiritual impotence in a continual round of vain distractions. The result is only further disillusionment; the novel's final vision is one of utter pessimism.</p> <p>In Antic Hay, Huxley pungently depicts and examines the plight of his contemporaries. But his detachment as a commentator is undermined by a curious susceptibility to the vitiating strain of sentimentalism and affectation characteristic of the novel's fictional world. The outward mask of cynicism which emphatically announces the disappointed idealist within is as much a feature of his own attitude as that of his characters. It was Huxley's failure to fully transcend the prevailing mood of his age which must have made Antic Hay's evocation of the post-war ethos so compelling and relevent to its original readers. At the same time, this flawed perspective -- indispensible to Huxley's appeal in the 1920's -- has made Antic Hay somewhat of a "period piece", fascinating as an account of its age, but of limited significance as a work of art.</p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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