Keep the Aspidistra Flying is a novel written by George Orwell, published in 1936. It tells the story of Gordon Comstock, a disillusioned poet who decides to rebel against the commercialism of society and pursue a life of poverty. The novel explores themes of class struggle, the value of art in a materialistic world, and the sacrifices individuals make in pursuit of their ideals.

Plot Summary

The novel is set in London during the 1930s and follows the life of Gordon Comstock, a struggling poet who works in a small bookstore. Fed up with the bourgeois society he despises, Gordon quits his well-paying job and takes up a menial position in a bookshop as an act of rebellion. He believes that by rejecting the comforts of materialism, he can live a purer life focused solely on his writing.

Gordon’s decision to renounce the pursuit of money comes with its fair share of challenges. He struggles to make ends meet and finds himself constantly at odds with his practical girlfriend, Rosemary. Despite his poverty, Gordon remains steadfast in his belief that artistic integrity is more important than financial success.

The story delves into Gordon’s internal struggle as he battles between his ideals and the temptations of a comfortable life. He becomes increasingly isolated from society and struggles to gain recognition for his work. As his frustration builds and his relationship with Rosemary becomes strained, Gordon must decide whether his commitment to his art is worth the sacrifices he has made.

Awards, Criticisms, and Accolades

Keep the Aspidistra Flying received critical acclaim upon its release and has since become a celebrated work of literature. Although it did not win any major awards, the novel is highly regarded for its incisive social commentary and Orwell’s sharp wit. Critics praised the book for its vivid portrayal of the struggles faced by artists in a commercialized world.

Some critics, however, found fault with the novel’s depiction of the protagonist’s descent into poverty. They argued that Orwell’s portrayal romanticized poverty and failed to convey the real struggles faced by individuals in such circumstances.

Despite these criticisms, the book remains a favorite among readers who appreciate Orwell’s ability to expose the hypocrisy and inequalities inherent in society.

Notable Characters

1. Gordon Comstock

Gordon Comstock is the protagonist of the novel. He is a disillusioned poet who rejects the trappings of middle-class society in pursuit of his artistic ambitions. Gordon’s stubborn nature, self-doubt, and constant struggle with poverty make him a complex and relatable character.

2. Rosemary Waterlow

Rosemary Waterlow is Gordon’s practical girlfriend who works as a secretary. Unlike Gordon, Rosemary values financial stability and struggles to understand his aversion to money. Her character represents the clash between practicality and idealism.

3. Ravelston

Ravelston is a close friend of Gordon’s, who comes from a wealthy background. He serves as a contrast to Gordon’s poverty, enjoying the luxuries that Gordon rejects. Ravelston embodies the temptations Gordon must resist in his pursuit of artistic integrity.

In Conclusion

By exploring themes of societal pressures, artistic integrity, and the sacrifices individuals make for their ideals, Keep the Aspidistra Flying offers a thought-provoking examination of the tension between passion and practicality. Orwell’s deep insights into the human condition and his scathing social commentary make this novel a compelling read for anyone interested in the challenges faced by artists in a materialistic world.

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