The Novel of Ideas

Features of the Novel of Ideas

ALDOUS HUXLEY (1894 –1963), H. G. WELLS (1866 –1946) and GEORGE ORWELL (1903 –50) produced novels of ideas.

In Point Counter Point (1928, chapter 27) HUXLEY put down what he understood by a novel of ideas:

“The character of each personage must be implied, as far as possible, in the ideas of which he is a mouthpiece. In so far as theories are rationalizations of sentiments, instincts, dispositions of soul, this is feasible.”

The characters that occur in the novel of ideas lack individuality; they are employed as personifications of advocates of ideas.


HUXLEY's Eyeless in Gaza (1936) is an experimental novel in which the chronological order has been given up.
After Many a Summer (1939), a parable, Ape and Essence (1948), an allegory composed as a film script, and Brave New World (1932) are set in the future.

Brave New World presents the dystopian world of a future dictatorship, which has established seemingly perfect living conditions. In chapters 16 and 17, the ideas of Controller Mustapha Mond are pitted against those of John the Savage:

universal happiness
centralized totalitarianism
and eugenic manipulation


and freedom of decision

GEORGE ORWELL's dystopian satire 1984 (1949) projects the political reality of ORWELL's lifetime into the future: Recent German Nazism, the totalitarianism of Soviet-Russia and the Cold War. The satirical novel 1984 describes a society controlled by manipulation and terror.

Animal Farm (1945) by GEORGE ORWELL is both a satirical fable and a novel du clef (Schlüsselroman) of revolutionary Russia and Stalinism: The animals of Mr Jones's farm stage a revolution and expel their human master from the farm. The pigs take over leadership, eventually become corrupted, and a new tyranny replaces the old one. Exaggeration and the absurd are used to ridicule the post-revolutionary order and political manipulation. In the last chapter the perversion of political rule culminates, when the pigs reduce all of the farm animals' revolutionary commandments into a single one:

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
(George Orwell, Animal Farm, chapter X)

Stand: 2010
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