Point Counter Point

Point Counter Point

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By Aldous Huxley

ISBN: 9781628974492

Publication Date: 6/13/23

Aldous Huxley's lifelong concern with the dichotomy between passion and reason finds its fullest expression both thematically and formally in his masterpiece Point Counter Point. By presenting a vision of life in which diverse aspects of experience are observed simultaneously, Huxley characterizes the symptoms of "the disease of modern man' in the manner of a composer—themes and characters are repeated, altered slightly, and played off one another in a tone that is at once critical and sympathetic.

First published in 1928, Huxley's satiric view of intellectual life in the '20s is populated with characters based on such celebrities of the time as D. H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, Sir Oswald Mosley, Nancy Cunard, and John Middleton Murray, as well as Huxley himself. A major work of the twentieth century and a monument of literary modernism, this edition includes an introduction by acclaimed novelist Nicholas Mosley (author of Hopeful Monsters and the son of Sir Oswald Mosley).

Along with Brave New World (written a few years later), Point Counter Point is Huxley's most concentrated attack on the scientific attitude and its effect on modern culture. 

Biographical Information

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) was an English writer who spent the latter part of his life in the United States. Though best known for Brave New World, he also wrote countless works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and essays. A humanist, pacifist and satirist, he wrote novels and other works that functioned as critiques of social norms and ideals. Aldous Huxley is often considered a leader of modern thought and one of the most important literary and philosophical voices of the twentieth century.

 Reviews

“The aim of this book is not idle amusement for the sophisticated, but a grasping of the intellectual Zeitgeist and a biting criticism of it. . . . Point Counter Point is the most powerful and vitriolic indictment of the intellectual world we have had in years.”—New York Times

Point Counter Point is the modem Vanity Fair, and Mr. Huxley is the Thackeray de nos jours. . . . It might have been said in its own day that Vanity Fair was the richest novel in substance and the most comprehensive that had appeared in English. The same thing might be said today of Point Counter Point.”

—New Republic

“Unflagging in its spirits and unflagging in its intelligence, throughout more than four hundred pages it vindicates Mr. Huxley’s right to be considered the most able of contemporary satirists and the most perfect representative of the mood which he describes.”—New York Herald Tribune

Excerpt



CHAPTER I

 

"You won’t be late?” There was anxiety in Marjorie Carling’s voice, there was something like entreaty.

"No, I won’t be late,” said Walter, unhappily and guiltily certain that he would be. Her voice annoyed him. It drawled a little, it was too refined—even in misery.

“Not later than midnight.” She might have reminded him of the time when he never went out in the evenings without her. She might have done so; but she wouldn’t; it was against her principles; she didn’t want to force his love in any way.

“Well, call it one. You know what these parties are.” But as a matter of fact, she didn’t know, for the good reason that, not being his wife, she wasn’t invited to them. She had left her husband to live with Walter Bidlake; and Carling, who had Christian scruples, was feebly a sadist and wanted to take his revenge, refused to divorce her. It was two years now, since they had begun to live together. Only two years; and now, already, he had ceased to love her, he had begun to love someone else. The sin was losing its only excuse, the social discomfort its sole palliation. And she was with child.

“Half-past twelve,” she implored, though she knew that her importunity would only annoy him, only make him love her the less. But she could not prevent herself from speaking; she loved him too much, she was too agonizingly jealous. The words broke out in spite of her principles. It would have been better for her and perhaps for Walter, too, if she had had fewer principles and given her feelings the violent expression they demanded. But she had been well brought up in habits of the strictest self-control. Only the uneducated, she knew made “scenes.” An imploring “Half-past twelve, Walter,” was all that managed to break through her principles. Too weak to move him, the feeble outburst would only annoy. She knew it, and yet she could not hold her tongue.

“If I can possibly manage it.” (There; she had done it. There was exasperation in his tone.) “But I can’t guarantee it; don’t expect me too certainly.” For of course, he was thinking (with Lucy Tantamount’s image unexorcisably haunting him), it certainly wouldn’t be half-past twelve.

He gave the final touches to his white tie. From the mirror her face looked out at him, close beside his own. It was a pale face and so thin that the down-thrown light of the electric lamp hanging above them made a shadow in the hollows below the cheek-bones. Her eyes were darkly ringed. Rather too long at the best of times, her straight nose protruded bleakly from the unfleshed face. She looked ugly, tired, and ill. Six months from now her baby would be born. Something that had been a single cell, a cluster of cells, a little sac of tissue, a kind of worm, a potential fish with gills, stirred in her womb and would one day become a man—a grown man, suffering and enjoying, loving and hating, thinking, remembering, imagining. And what had been a blob of jelly within her body would invent a god and worship; what had been a kind of fish would create and, having created, would become the battle-ground of disputing good and evil; what had blindly lived in her as a parasitic worm would look at the stars, would listen to music, would read poetry. A thing would grow into a person, a tiny lump of stuff would become a human body, a human mind. The astounding process of creation was going on within her; but Marjorie was conscious only of sickness and lassitude; the mystery for her meant nothing but fatigue and ugliness and a chronic anxiety about the future, pain of the mind as well as discomfort of the body. She had been glad, or at least 6he had tried to be glad, in spite of her haunting fears of physical and social consequences, when she first recognized the symptoms of her pregnancy. The child, she believed, would bring Walter closer. (He had begun to fade away from her even then.) It would arouse in him new feelings which would make up for whatever element it was that seemed to be lacking in his love for her. She dreaded the pain, she dreaded the inevitable difficulties and embarrassments. But the pains, the difficulties would have been worth while if they purchased a renewal, a strengthening of Walter’s attachment. In spite of everything, she was glad. And at first her previsions had seemed to be justified. The news that she was going to have a child had quickened his tenderness. For two or three weeks she was happy, she was reconciled to the pains and discomforts. Then, from one day to another, everything was changed; Walter had met that woman. He still did his best, in the intervals of running after Lucy, to keep up a show of solicitude. But she could feel that the solicitude was resentful, that he was tender and attentive out of a sense of duty, that he hated the child for compelling him to be so considerate to its mother. And because he hated it, she too began to hate it. No longer overlaid by happiness, her fears came to the surface, filled her mind. Pain and discomfort—that was all the future held. And meanwhile ugliness, sickness, fatigue. How could she fight her battle when she was in this state?

"Do you love me, Walter?” she suddenly asked.

Walter turned his brown eyes for a moment from the reflected tie and looked into the image of her sad, intently gazing grey ones. He smiled. “But if only,” he was thinking, “she would leave me in peace!” He pursed his lips and parted them again in the suggestion of a kiss. But Marjorie did not return his smile. Her face remained unmovingly sad, fixed in an intent anxiety. Her eyes took on a tremulous brightness, and suddenly there were tears on her lashes.

“Couldn’t you stay here with me this evening?” she begged, in the teeth of all her heroic resolutions not to apply any sort of exasperating compulsion to his love, to leave him free to do what he wanted.

At the sight of those tears, at the sound of that tremulous and reproachful voice, Walter was filled with an emotion that was at once remorse and resentment; anger, pity, and shame.

“But can’t you understand,” that was what he would have liked to say, what he would have said if he had had the courage, “can’t you understand that it isn’t the same as it was, that it can’t be the same? And perhaps, if the truth be told, it never was what you believed it was—our love, I mean—it never was what I tried to pretend it was. Let’s be friends, let’s be companions. I like you, I’m very fond of you. But for goodness’ sake don’t envelop me in love, like this; don’t force love on me. If you knew how dreadful love seems to somebody who doesn’t love, what a violation, what an outrage . . .”

But she was crying. Through her closed eyelids the tears were welling out, drop after drop. Her face was trembling into the grimace of agony. And he was the tormentor. He hated himself. “But why should I let myself be blackmailed by her tears?” he asked and, asking, he hated her also. A drop ran down her long nose. “She has no right to do this sort of thing, no right to be so unreasonable. Why can’t she be reasonable?”

“Because she loves me.”

“But I don’t want her love, I don’t want it.” He felt the anger mounting up within him. She had no business to love him like that; not now, at any rate. “It’s a blackmail,” he repeated inwardly, “a blackmail. Why must I be blackmailed by her love and the fact that once I loved too—or did I ever love her, really?”

Marjorie took out a handkerchief and began to wipe her eyes. He felt ashamed of his odious thoughts. But she was the cause of his shame; it was her fault. She ought to have stuck to her husband. They could have had an affair. Afternoons in a studio. It would have been romantic.