Thou art unreal, my ideal: nostalgia as ideology in the novels of Evelyn Waugh, Aldous Huxley, and George Orwell

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of Alabama Libraries

The satirical novels of Evelyn Waugh, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell share a sense of nostalgia for an imagined past as well as a fatalistic and entropic view of the future. Rather than advocating a wholesale reformation of society, these novels instead argue in favor of the status quo and regard change as counterproductive. In this way, the novels reflect certain ideologies strongly held in England during the transition from the colonial to the postcolonial period. Through an examination of their treatment of class relations, social norms and outside influences, this study argues that Waugh, Huxley and Orwell maintained the superiority of English culture and civilization instead of questioning it, and focused their satire on elements they believed threatened this established hegemony. In doing so, they each used a nostalgic and idealized portrait of English society to challenge elements of their present that they found unsatisfactory. The production of the idealized past challenges commonly held perceptions of the way these satires function. They are not critiques of the establishment but rather supporters of it; they call for a static society rather than a dynamic one. Evelyn Waugh's novels Decline and Fall and Black Mischief support a presumed English ideology over that of its colonial peripheries. Aldous Huxley's novels Brave New World, Ape and Essence, and Island deal with questions of overpopulation and stereotyped attributes of perceived non-intellectuals in their relationship to Huxley's preferred class structure. George Orwell's novels Burmese Days, Coming Up For Air, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm each presuppose an idyllic but nonexistent English society and use this construct to critique the future of Englishness.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
British & Irish literature