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This was posted by Murple on another forum. I wanted to repost it here because so many people here seem to have a pesimistic view of the future.
Quote: I was in a discussion the other night regarding the ending of Huxley's "Island." If you haven't read it, you may want to not read this thread to avoid ruining the ending. Anyway...
Aldous Huxley is one of my favorite writer/philosophers, and probably comes closer to my own worldview than any other writer I've encountered. The novel "Island" is one of my favorite of his books, and I always saw it more as a philosophical treatise disguised as a novel than a novel with a philosophical basis.
Over the years I've encountered two groups of people who interpret the ending in opposite ways, one negative the other positive. The negative interpretation seems to be the dominant of the two, which I think misses out on Huxley's point.
To summarize the ending for those who don't remember it too clearly, the bad guys end up invading the paradise island of Pala. Many people read this on a purely plot level, and take the ending in the sense of "paradise got destroyed."
I read the ending on a different level, in a symbolic philosophical level. I base this on the ending of the book, as the invaders drive into Pala, past an old Buddha statue on the side of the road:
Quote: The procession crawled on and on, from the right this time, the headlamps of the first armored car lit up the serenely smiling face of enlightenment. For an instant only, and then the beam moved on. And here was the Tathagata for the second time, the third, the fourth, the fifth. The last of the cars passed by. Disregarded in the darkness, the fact of enlightenment remained. The roaring of the engines diminished, the squeaking rhetoric lapsed into an inarticulate murmur, and as the intruding noises died away, out came the frogs again, out came the uninterruptabe insects, out came the mynah birds.
To me, this expresses a profound and powerful truth so moving that it almost brings a tear to my eye simply to read it again to type it in. I simply don't see the pessimistic ending many do.
The way I read this ending is similar to Gandhi's statement about how the horrors of history come and go - but always, they go:
Quote: When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS.
The "bad guys" in "Island" may win at the end of the book if you read it simply on a plot level - but that isn't the point. The point is that the bad guys are more or less irrelevant. The way I read the ending hinges on the the symbolism in this final paragraph of the book.
The Buddha statue represents enlightenment, and all the positive ideals that the paradise of Pala was based upon. The headlights of the invading armored cars represent the transience of the forces of materialism, greed, destructiveness, ignorance and all the other negative things embodied in the new Raja and the oil company in the novel. The headlights come, they go, just as the evils of history - but always, they pass, and whether they are on or off, as Huxley writes, "the fact of enlightenment remains." The forces of negativity are simply unable to touch the eternal changeless truths of enlightenment.
I'm curious how everyone else interprets the ending of Island. The book is certainly operating on many levels at once, so there is lots of room for intepretation.
When Murple left the shroomery if was a great loss for the Shroomery.
-------------------- Be all and you'll be to end all