Amusing Ourselves to Death

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Aldous Huxley Character Analysis

The Author of Brave New World, a dystopian novel about the demise of culture. Huxley’s book imagines a future world where the things we love destroy us: our desire to be entertained, to be shallowly happy, results in the virtual elimination of thought itself. Postman’s book suggests that Huxley’s account will be proven right if we are not more mindful of how we interact with media.

Aldous Huxley Quotes in Amusing Ourselves to Death

The Amusing Ourselves to Death quotes below are all either spoken by Aldous Huxley or refer to Aldous Huxley. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Form and Content Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Amusing Ourselves to Death published in 2005.
Foreward Quotes

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

Related Characters: Aldous Huxley, George Orwell
Page Number: xx
Explanation and Analysis:

Postman has summarized the plots of two famous dystopian novels: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984. Both novels depict a totalitarian government which, through carefully constructed technologies of control, have repressed the populations over which they rule such that political dissent is impossible. However, these methods of control differ vastly––in Orwell's novel, surveillance technologies, economic scarcity, and strict censorship mean that there are no opportunities to think, watch, read, or say anything that opposes the hate-filled, ultranationalistic government agenda. Huxley, meanwhile, depicts a society in which citizens have endless opportunity for entertainment, including drugs, travel, sex, or "feelies," a spin off "movies" (which were a fairly new medium in Huxley's time). 

By saying that Huxley "was right," Postman implies that it would be more plausible for a population to be subdued and controlled by entertainment than by severe and direct government oppression. Crucially, he also suggests that Huxley was "right" in the sense that his dystopian vision is close – uncomfortably close – to the reality of 1980s American society. This comparison illustrates Postman's view that television has acclimatized the population to constant, shallow entertainment, and that in so doing has eroded citizen's ability to engage in rational thought and discourse. 

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Chapter 6 Quotes

Had Irving Berlin changed one word in the title of his celebrated song [There’s No Business like Show Business], he would have been as prophetic, albeit more terse, as Aldous Huxley. He need only have written, There's No Business But Show Business.

Related Characters: Aldous Huxley
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

Postman has emphasized both television's uniqueness among other forms of media and its unparalleled influence on culture. Even thoughts, behaviors, and modes of communication that do not immediately appear related to television are often deeply affected by its influence. In this passage, Postman wryly comments that Irving Berlin's famous song "There's No Business Like Show Business," written in 1946, would have been "prophetic" if the title had been altered to "There's No Business But Show Business." The second title highlights the entertainment industry's exceptional status within late 20th-century American culture, as well as the particular power of "show business" to turn all aspects of life into frivolous, flashy forms of entertainment. 

Chapter 11 Quotes

Brave New World was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.

Related Characters: Aldous Huxley
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

In the book's conclusion, Postman emphasizes that television seems nonthreatening and even highly appealing––yet this belies the enormous danger it poses to society. However, Postman does not suggest that television be "shut down" (indeed, this would be rather too Orwellian a conclusion!). Instead, Postman argues that it will help if people are better informed about the way in which television works, and are thus able to view television culture and its impact on society with a critical eye. In this passage, he explains that the fact that the characters in Brave New World were always entertained was not the real problem; instead, the problem lay in the fact that "they did not know what they were laughing about." 

Postman proposes that if people acknowledge the effect that television is having on society, then they will be able to understand and resist its influence. Ultimately, Postman is less concerned with how people spend their free time or which forms of art and media are most popular, and more worried about people's continued ability to rationally question the world around them. 

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Aldous Huxley Character Timeline in Amusing Ourselves to Death

The timeline below shows where the character Aldous Huxley appears in Amusing Ourselves to Death. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Foreward
Typography vs. Image Theme Icon
The History of Public Discourse and Media Theme Icon
Progress, Prediction, and the Unforeseen Future Theme Icon
...begins his book by summarizing George Orwell’s 1949 dystopian novel 1984, as well as Aldous Huxley’s (also dystopian) 1932 novel Brave New World. Postman points out that these authors, though they... (full context)
Chapter 1: The Medium is the Metaphor
Form and Content Theme Icon
The History of Public Discourse and Media Theme Icon
Progress, Prediction, and the Unforeseen Future Theme Icon
...the form of the media that presents it. Postman believes that McLuhan, like Orwell and Huxley, “spoke in the tradition of prophecy.” Postman was once a student of McLuhan, and he... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Age of Show Business
Form and Content Theme Icon
Typography vs. Image Theme Icon
The History of Public Discourse and Media Theme Icon
News and Entertainment Theme Icon
Progress, Prediction, and the Unforeseen Future Theme Icon
...Business like Show Business], he would have been as prophetic, albeit more terse, as Aldous Huxley. He need only have written, There's No Business But Show Business.” (full context)
Chapter 7: Now…This
News and Entertainment Theme Icon
Progress, Prediction, and the Unforeseen Future Theme Icon
...would have been stymied by this situation; there is nothing ‘Orwellian’ about it,” Postman says. Huxley, on the other hand, would not be surprised in the least at the current state... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Huxleyan Warning
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Progress, Prediction, and the Unforeseen Future Theme Icon
...may be shriveled,” Postman says. “In the first—the Orwellian—culture becomes a prison. In the second—the Huxleyan—culture becomes a burlesque.” For Orwell, the danger comes from people full of hatred and resentment,... (full context)