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Literature / Island (1962)

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Island is the last novel by Aldous Huxley.

An Intrepid Reporter Will Farnaby accidentally-on-purpose crashes his yaht on the shores of Pala, the forbidden island. The natives readily take him in, patch him up and let Will roam around as freely as one can on crutches. He finds himself more and more drawn to this new civilisation, but worries it won't be there for long, since petrol moguls are already reaching for Pala. In fact, Will himself is an unofficial representative of one.

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  • Abusive Parents: Will's, especially his alcoholic father. Also, the MacPhails of Scotland, whose son managed to grow up into a decent human being and then found Pala, which is how his descendants (doctor Robert and his family) came to live there.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Murugan moans that his people have no ambition. They're simply not interested in his vision of success.
  • Banana Republic: Rendang, colonel Dipa's country on the neighbouring island, except Indian rather than Carribean. Also, Pala's heading for that fate once united with Rendang.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: There might be a trace of Author Tract in it. An Author Tract against Calvinism, mostly, but other religions are treated with a kindly and enlightened sort of Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions.
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  • Book-Ends: Will hallucinates both in the first and in the last chapter.
  • Climbing the Cliffs of Insanity: Only because Will thinks he's on a dangerous, desert island at first. In panic, he falls off and breaks his leg. Rock climbing is actually a popular pasttime in Pala, for (again) spiritual as well as health reasons.
  • The Cynic: Will is struggling to maintain his cynical worldview. Pala does crack it, though.
  • Death Is a Sad Thing: Will recalls his childhood experiences while trying to process how children in Pala are brought in to see people die (or be born) on purpose, to understand these are parts of life. He has a problem reconciling how perfect Pala is with the fact that people still die there.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Murugan and colonel Dipa. Although their affair is not treated as bad because it's homosexual, but because of the age gap and Love Ruins the Realm issues that come when an impressionable young prince is awestruck with an obviously power-hungry dictator. This said, they're both unpleasant types.
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  • Drives Like Crazy: Murugan's primary interest is cars and everything else that you can drive fast. Will, who has been a passenger before, notes only Love Makes You Stupid enough to allow someone who drives like this behind the wheel of your car, which is out first indication of Murugan's affair with the car's owner, colonel Dipa.
  • Downer Ending: Made more potent by the englightening experience Will has right before it.
  • Empathic Environment: The storm in chapter fourteen.
  • Face Death with Dignity: The Palans do. They are helped through it (Susila is an expert at this sort of thing), but Will directly compares Lakshmi on her deathbed with his aunt, who did not go gentle into that good night, losing a lot of her dignity in the process.
  • The Fundamentalist: The Rani is one of her own Interfaith Smoothie.
  • Free-Love Future: Not future, obviously, but Pala is pretty lax about sex. "Yoga of love" (tantric sex) is even taught at schools for both spiritual and population control reasons.
  • For Happiness: The Palans have a distinctly buddhist view of it. Apart from the eugenics, perhaps.
  • The Golden Rule: Discussed.
  • The Good Kingdom: Pala, being a constitutional monarchy, albeit in Indian rather than European trappings (it has jungle with mynah birds, Buddha statues and old hinduist temples, they eat rice, breadfruit and vegetables there and use a mushroom-derived drug for religious purposes, while also adhering to a rather eastern sort of philosophy).
  • Hidden Elf Village: Pala has always been one. Up until the book ends.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: Downplayed for the locals, full-on strenght for Will. The moksha-medicine is used in controlled circumstances, with carefully prepared set-and-setting and a guide to talk you through the experience.
  • Honorary Uncle: Palan custom has people, when they turn of age, join Mutual Adoption Clubs in order to be Cool Uncles and aunts for each other's children, thus avoiding a Big, Screwed-Up Family that apparently ensues when family members can't take a rest from each other or be gently told to stop doing something they don't understand hurts the others. Notably - Murugan and the Rani do not practice this custom.
  • Manchild: Murugan is turning eighteen in a couple of days, but he still acts like a spoiled child.
  • Momma's Boy: Murugan is completely under the heel of his doting, overbearing mother - Will thinks this might have affected his sexuality, especially that he doesn't really act camp, but quite, quite childish.
  • Non-Protagonist Resolver: Technically, Will being there does not change anything. Murugan and the colonel have planning this coup for a while, it seems, and it would have happened whether Will shipwrecked or not. He gets a little illusion of control, but ultimately decides not to do anything.
  • No Poverty: Thanks to being an enlightened place with ubiquitous birth control (mostly through tantric sex, but more traditional means are readily available, if desired), Pala has no overpopulation. Add to this very advanced agriculture and there you go.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: Pala has no army. Until Murugan takes over.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: The mynah birds - they have been trained to repeat "Attention!" and "Here and now, boys!" to help the Palans stay mindful.
  • Posthumous Character: Susila's husband (also, doctor Robert's son) died in an accident a couple of months prior.
  • Pretty Boy: Murugan. Will calls him Antinous for colonel Dipa's Hadrian.
  • Reconstruction: The book is one of the utopia genre, in direct opposition here to Brave New World, which was a deconstruction.
  • Straight Gay: Neither of the homosexual men in the story acts more camp than expected of his general social position of a (supposedly sickly) prince and a military dictator, respectively. Other than that - Pala is a Free-Love Future type of place where people don't really have a problem with anyone's sexuality.
  • Straight Edge Evil: Apart from his affair, Murugan is vehemently against sex, drugs and rock and roll. He's been brought up this way by the Rani.
  • The Topic of Cancer: They still have it on Pala (a little girl understands it as bits of the body acting selfish) - doctor Robert's wife, Lakshmi, is dying of it. Will's beloved aunt also died of breast cancer.
  • There Are No Good Executives: It's not the question of whether or not an oil company will destroy Pala - but which one. Joe Aldehyde has authorised Will to negotiate with Palan government.
  • Utopia
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