Literary Arcadia Literature and other things

Profundity is the Point

Two of my favorite quotes from Point Counter Point reflect the theme of dichotomy that runs through the entire book.  Huxley continually sets up two, often disparate, ideas and plays one off the other, using his characters as sort of philosophical mouth-pieces.  Discussed are; love vs. singularity, animal passion vs. reasoned thoughts, art vs. life, ideal vs. reality, religion vs. modern philosophy.

As stated previously, much of the novel is conversations between a set of characters.  Obviously, some of these conversations are more profound and meaningful than others.  One of the young dilettante’s, Spendrell (a cynical war vet who seduces women to degrade them- truly the bitterest character in the novel) waxes philosophical on the phases of the night as he convinces his companions to join him in his continued revels;

“Still young,” was Spendrell’s comment on the night.  “Young and rather insipid.  Nights are like human beings- never interesting till they’re grown up.  Round about midnight they reach puberty.  At a little after one they come of age.  Their prime is from two to half past.  An hour later they’re growing rather desperate, like those man-eating women and waning middle-aged me who hop around twice as violently as they ever did in the hope of persuading themselves that they’re not old.  After four they’re in full decay.  And their death is horrible.  Really horrible at sunrise, when the bottles are empty and people look like corpses and desire’s exhausted itself into disgust.  I have rather a weakness for the death-bed scenes, I must confess,” Spendrell added.

Very clever, but not much point other than to convince others to join him in seeing the night “die”.  Contrast with another Spendrell scene- this is one with Philip Quarles (another Huxley avatar)- as they puzzle out the events in a person’s life, how certain things seem like fate while others seem like pure chance (good or bad);

“And that’s the sort of thing one’s life hinges on- some absolutely absurd, million-to-one chance.  An irrelevance, and your life’s altered.”  Philip disseminated more politely.  “But many people can be influenced by the same event in entirely different and characteristic ways.”  “I know, ” Spendrell answered.  “But in some indescribable way the event’s modified, qualitatively modified, so as to suit the character of each person involved in it.”

So- are we all the products of a certain chain of events and chances, or do we encounter certain chances because of who we were to begin with?  Or should we just throw our hands up to the capriciousness of fate?

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