Work and Leisure by Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley was not only man of intellect, but also a man of vision. He sensed that with rapid industrialization and massive urbanization, the man’s lifestyle is going to change. He could see, in the coming days. the working hours will reduce to six hours per day, providing ample scope for leisure. Considering his contemporary scenario, Huxley is worried about the proper utilization of the leisurely hours. In that sense, the present essay is Huxley’s meditation over the relationship between work and leisure.
At present, leisure is a privilege for very few people. But in the coming days, with efficient social organization and sophisticated machinery, more and more people will enjoy the fruits of leisure. Here, Huxley raises a question that what the people will do with this leisure? Here, he cites three authorities namely, Poincare, G. B. Shaw and H. G. Wells who have tried to find out the possible answers for this question. Surprisingly, everyone comes to the conclusion that the human beings of the future world would fill their long leisures ‘by contemplating the laws of nature’. Different prophets are also hopeful about the proper utilization of leisurely hours.
But considering the contemporary scenario, Huxley feels sorry for the misuse of leisure. Here he talks about the utilization of leisure of the rich and the poor. Most of the rich people prefer is Monte Carlo and Nice, the places notoriously famous for gambling and prostitutes. Huxley calls these places ironically as “ an earthly paradise”. of course, there are exceptions these seekers of love and play. Some of the people are engaged with works of charity, politics, local administration and occasionally with scholarly or scientific studies. But majority of the population is inclined to Monte Carlo. This concept of leisure of the rich people is not at all cheering or elevating.
In case of poor people also, though they get comparatively brief leisure hours, the picture is not so good. For them, the idea of leisure is restricted to looking at cinema, films, reading newspapers, cheap literature, listening to radio, gramophone records, and going from place to place. Huxley is upset because. of the thought that what will happen when the leisure is prolonged. He predicts that there would be an enormous increase in amorous lifestyle and time killing.
But it would be wrong to assume that Huxley is against the notion of leisure. He refers to Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian writer, who considered leisure as something ‘wicked’ and ‘ absurd’. He regarded leisure lovers as conspirators against the welfare of the race. Whereas, Huxley doesn’t consider leisure as a curse. He opines that in a society where there are active minds, engaged in mental work, leisure would be” ‘an unmixed blessing’. Since leisure is directly related to mental work, some people may pinpoint the loopholes of education system. Huxley agrees with them. His observation is that plenty of people who have received the best education, employ their leisure as though they had never been educated at all. Therefore Huxley believes that if education is made really efficient, only then contemplating the laws of nature would become the leisure of people.
‘Work and Leisure’ is a personal kind of essay. Huxley’s concern was always about the welfare society, a kind of utopian world. But he was merely an idealist. He had the ability to analyse the things objectively. That’s why, while criticizing the world of Monte Carol, he doesn’t forget to mention Florence, where people, though in small number, talk, love, make sketches and read books. Again. he is not an extremist like Tolstoy about the idea of leisure. He doesn’t reject outright leisure in favour of work. With due respect to Tolstoy, he refutes Tolstoy’s ideology of leisure. The essay clearly reveals Huxley as a man of intellect. The essay is packed with a number of references related to literature, science and music. And yet his language is not at all pedantic or unnecessarily complex.
Though serious in tone, Huxley doesn’t make the essay dull and dry. Wherever possible, he gives illustrations to justify his point. With this style, he makes his opinions convincing to the reader. Even his sense of humour is reflected in the essay. Knowledge is a vast ocean. The human mind is helpless to acquire all the fields of knowledge. To exemplify this view, Huxley makes the use of an image of dog. While comparing. with the giants in various disciplines, Huxley says that he is a dog, an insignificant creature. Huxley’s comparison is really amusing.
Subjectivity, convincing, style, humoruous tone, learnedness, etc. make the essay Work and Leisure an intellectual feast to the reader.
Check your progress :
A) Match the following :
a) G. B. Shaw i. boxer
b) Newton ii. billiard player
c) Beethoven iii. tight rope walker
d) Giotto. iv. painter
e) Blondin v. musician
f) Newman vi. mathematician
g) Dempsey vii. writer
B) Say true or false. If the statement is false correct it :
1. One should fill long leisures by contemplating laws of nature.
2. For most of the people, Florence is an earthly paradise.
3. Tolstoy was concerned with the leisured people who should get more work.
4. With a vast number of people, intellectual development never stops.
5. In a society, entirely composed of active minds, leisure is a blessing.
Answers to check your progress :
A) a – vii, b – vi, c – v, d – iv, e – iii, f – ii, g – i
B) 1. T
2. F (For most of the people, Monte Carlo and Nice are the earthly paradise)
4. F (With a vast number of people intellectual development stops in a childhood.)