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George Orwell: Keep The Aspidistra Flying

I have a certain fondness for this book. It is less overtly political than his other books and its hero, Gordon Comstock, is the sort of weak but loveable hero I enjoy reading about. Gordon is a faux idealist. He works in advertising or, rather, did, for at the beginning of the novel he has quit his advertising job to work at a lower wage in a bookshop. Gordon thinks he is a poet. He writes poetry but it is not very good and his one book of poetry has had no success though the Times Literary Supplement said it had promise. He still has hopes of being a man of letters and is working on his next project. Unfortunately, he has two other hopes. One is of having money and the other is getting Rosemary into bed without marrying her, both aims looking distinctly remote. Indeed, he believes the two to be linked, as he feels Rosemary won’t sleep with him because he has no money.

Gordon is worried about becoming middle-class or, worse still, lower middle-class, For him, mingy, lower-middle-class decency is represented by the aspidistra plant, seen in all lower middle class windows. Orwell satirises the middle class – the lower middle-class – though he was very much part of it. And it is the middle-class, with all of its virtues and vices that finally triumphs, as Gordon goes back to advertising and, despite the fact that he has had his wicked way and got her pregnant, he also marries Rosemary. The aspidistra is flying in all of its glory.

Publishing history

First published 1936 by Victor Gollancz