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Keep the Aspidistra Flying

Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Nineteen Fighty-Four

novel orwell gordon money

a novel by George Orwell, published in 1936. The only one of Orwell's novels about a writer, Keep the Aspidistra Flying is most autobiographical in its admission of the fear driving its protagonist, Gordon Comstock, to abandon his poetic vocation for the sake of financial security. Its epigraph is an adaptation of I Corinthians xiii: ‘And now abideth faith, hope, money, these three; but the greatest of these is money’. Lack of money vitiates all of Gordon's most important relationships, with his mother, his sister, and especially with his fiancée, Rosemary, whom he is unable to marry, or even make love to, owing to his poverty: ‘It is not easy to make love in a cold climate when you have no money.’ Although Orwell's text contains a vehement rejection of the cash nexus, it also betrays a horror of insolvency that associates the life of the poor with regression to a primeval state: ‘to sink down, down into the ultimate mud.’ Throughout the novel, the image of the aspidistra occurs to symbolize the resilience of the British desire for respectability. Although Gordon makes repeated attempts to kill the aspidistras he encounters, the indestructibility of these plants found everywhere represents the over-whelming nature of the forces pitted against him. As with his counterpart Winston Smith in Nineteen Fighty-Four, the resistance of this nonconformist individual is slowly but surely whittled away. But whereas the later novel ends on a tragic note, the narrator of Keep the Aspidistra Flying assesses Gordon's final capitulation with a sour contempt. The novel is in many ways Orwell's most embittered work.

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