While reading Huxley’s Island, I caught a pattern in the narrative, in which we the reader are often given a glimpse of Faranby’s past actions before someone does something to help him out of the goodness of their heart, thus allowing Faranby to come to terms with those haunting memories. The difference was so stark at some points, I couldn’t help but to wonder as to why Huxley juxtaposes these two this as often as he does, that is, until I thought about an aspect of Pala’s Utopian society that is given more depth through this: Freedom.
A major belief in Pala is that people are to be free, in all aspects of life. The ideas of sexual acts, drug use, and raising of children are all freeing in the fact that drug use, which Faranby experiences (Huxley 325), and freely engaging in sexual acts (67) are readily accepted and even encouraged and children are raised more by community than just family (106), allowing less pressure to be placed solely on parents of the children. In this freedom, people flourish and grow, and this is also true for emotions. If you are weighted down by your past, as Faranby clearly is, then you can never allow yourself to enjoy the freedom of life or fully be open to the idea of freedom. Until Faranby has worked through his past and his guilt in regards to Molly and Babs (282-286), he is focused mainly on himself—not in the mindful healthy sense but in the self-focused mindset, speaking and honing in only on his experiences and making sure people are aware of them and how they differ from those of the people of Pala. It is not until the end of the novel, after he has started to come to terms with all the things weighing him down in his past, that we see him truly becoming more and more accepting of the free lifestyle of the people of Pala, even choosing to partake in being with them as Lakshmi passes on instead of going along with Murugan (309). At the end, his use of drugs and the “Light” (326) and visions he sees as he is guided through this experience help him fully deal with all the negatives he has experienced in his life and come to terms with his own emotions to be fully true himself.
Which begs the question, did this honest guilt at his past actions exist before he reached the island, or was this island and its beliefs a turning point for him coming to terms with his selfishness and past actions? Is Pala itself the catalyst for his realizations that he hurt people he cared for while thinking only of satisfying his own needs? Could he have, on his own, worked through the guilt that ate away at him or was his only hope this utopia? I believe Huxley wanted the reader to reach a conclusion similar to what I finally did, that is, that the idea of working through problems in a way that gives someone a support system and helps guide them through their troubles—the idea we as the readers see in the community of Pala—is the only way for us as a society to help ourselves come to terms with things that either we have done or have done to others that haunt us and finally forgive ourselves so that we too can experience freedom.
Huxley, Aldous. Island. HarperCollins, 1962
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Island.JPG#filelinks– First Edition Cover of Huxley’s Island from US printing.