The Theme and Style of Aldous Leonard Huxley 's Essay, Tragedy and The Whole Truth.

Introduction: Tragedy and The Whole Truth is an essay of literary criticism. With lucid, crystal clear statements his criticism at the literature and its truthfulness is expressed here. As a critique it is analyzing detailed, learned and brilliant exposition. The artistic revelation of the essence of literature – the truth, the whole truth interwoven the subject of interest in this piece. Let us study the piece through the following points. 

 The super truth: Aldous Leonard Huxley draws a distinction between tragedy and novel in his essay. Tragedy is limited in its scope and range. The novel has much wider writer aims at emotional intensity. A novelist writes in a discursive manner. So the wholly truthful kind of literature like Tom Jones is all embracing and all-inclusive. Huxley refers to an incident in Homer’s Odyssey. The description of the best and the bravest of the hero’s companions cruelly devoured by the monster Scylla reveals the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Huxley explains the meaning of truth in literature. According to him the whole truth contains the experiences, recorded in a piece of literature, which correspond fairly closely with actual experiences or with potential experiences. The whole truth is a kind of super truth.

An Opposition to I.A.Richards and further: I. A. Richards considers a good tragedy proof against irony and irrelevance. It can absorb anything into itself and still remain tragedy. The capacity to absorb untragic and anti tragic is a touchstone of tragic merit. Huxley does not agree with this viewpoint of I. A. Richards. He asserts that the tragedies of Shakespeare reveal the use of irony. They also contain a cynicism. It is terrifying. But this cynicism is always heroic idealism, which is turned neatly inside out. The irony seems to be a kind of photographic negative of heroic romance.

                Huxley thinks that the whole truth is not compatible with tragedy. No tragedy reveals the whole truth. We should not expect the whole truth where a writer has produced the tragic effect. Tragedy is something separate from ‘the whole truth’. Tragedy is chemically pure. Its chemical purity performs its function of catharsis so effectively. Tragedy refines emotional life and corrects it. Tragedy is valuable and significant.

              Writings, which tell the whole truth, produce a different effect upon the mind. Such writings overflow the limits of tragedy. Tragedy is an arbitrarily isolated eddy on the surface of a vast river that flows around, beneath and to either side river, and not only that particular eddy.

              Tragedy is chemically pure but the whole truthful literature is chemically impure as it contains many more ingredients than tragedy. The effects of the whole truthful literature are more lasting. Modern literature has shown tendency to embrace ‘the whole truth’. The writer thinks that there is simultaneous existence of tragedy and wholly truthful literature as human spirit requires these lands of art.

Style-natural, flowing and elegant: The present essay is delightful and masterly characterized by charm and vigour. It is remarkably lucid, simple and serene. Its style is natural, flowing and elegant. As a verbal craftsman Huxley is admirable for his love of craftsmanship as his medium of words used with imagination. With his choice of words, apt phrasal uses his is the brilliant exposition of ideas. It shows intellectual liberty and astonishing learning. The style is witty and polished with full of clarity. There is nothing vague, cloudy or cryptic. The style is further figurative. With the quality of eloquence, sincerity and condensed statements the essay becomes in concise, almost epigrammatic in style. His is the combination of grave and gay in this essay.

To quote a few of the memorable lines of his:
                                 “Tunning back from his post in the bows; Odysseus was in time to see them lifted; struggling, into the air, to hear their screams the desperate repetition of his owl name”.

                                 “Tragedy is something that is separated out from the whole truth, distilled from it, so to speak, as an essence is distilled from the living flower”.

                                 “Shakespeare’s ironies and cynicism serve to deepen his tragic world; not to widen it”. Etc.

Conclusion:  Tragedy and the Whole Truth is a beautiful expression on the nature of truth in artistic literature. It is a critique on well knit exposition and eloquent style.


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An English Teacher;    M. A.(English) , D. Ed., B. Ed., UGC- NET Qualified

"Dear Readers/ Students, I am a huge fan of books, English Grammar & Literature. I write this blog to instill that passion in you." 

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