Tuesday, August 17, 2010

This novel has everything... Class Warfare, Adult Situations, Disorderly Conduct and an Immortal Plant! PORTEmaus Book Club Review #II:

Keep The Aspidistra Flying... A novel by George Orwell.

Preface: I had the most frustrating conversation regarding Orwell (Like all literature talks, it stemmed from noisiness about the book I was reading at the time... The Scarlet Pimpernel) and how he was nothing more than hack, only able to plagiarize and incapable of an original literary thought. Basically, the clod asserted that 1984 was a rip-off of Zamyatin's We. What she neglected to note was that Orwell cited this novel as inspiration. I recount this story, merely to clear Orwell's name...

Say 'allo to Gordon Comstock, starving poet, shop keep and lone soldier in the war on Capitalism. Gordon is a complex character with few redeeming virtues and I doubt most readers will like him. His motivations for shunning money (however, he is not above accepting it from his poor and also starving sister) and "good" jobs would not resonate with them. He is staunchly anti-consumer and anti-Capitalist for the sake that neither behaviors have no intrinsic value in society.

Orwell surrounds Gordon with characters who cannot fathom the reasons for his actions. The horrors of Capitalism expounded by him is lost upon --those closest to him--Julia, Rosemary and even the self-described Socialist Ravelston (who is wealthy no less). All feel that Gordon should abandon his fools errand and obtain a job that pays. Of course, Gordon refuses to oblige them.

This is an interesting literary technique as the reader will inevitably side with the supporting cast and render Gordon's views taboo. At its foundation, Aspidistra is a novel that serves as means to awaken class consciousness... While simultaneously not offering a replacement for Capitalism. It merely seeks to expose Capitalistic values as being shallow and superficial.

In the end, the novel is one that illustrates the ills of Capitalism and how it adversely affects British intellectual development (I.e. Thoughts are "controlled" subconsciously through economics and this is illustrated through the reading habits or political views of the characters). There is a reason why this system is entrenched in Western society, it is because the individual creates a need for it. For even Gordon Comstock, avowed enemy of the "Money God" (aka Capitalism) realizes the futility of his battle and much like the protagonist in 1984, Winston Smith (Nice callback, it all comes full circle), he accepts the dominant system of control and obtains a "good" job. Of course, he has a reason for this but ultimately, Orwell utilizes Comstock as a means to illuminate that political or economic systems are nigh impossible to overthrow... Especially, when only one man answers the call to arms.

No comments:

Post a Comment