Analysing Orwells Attitude Towards Writing English Literature Essay

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Published in 1936, Keep the Aspidistra Flying gives the readers an elaborate account of poverty, with scrupulous attention to details and also to the wrecked psychological state one adopts when facing poverty on a daily basis. George Orwell wrote his autobiographical novel in 1934 and 1935 when he was living near Hampstead in London. "In the afternoon, Orwell worked in the second-hand bookshop at the bottom of Pond Street in Hampstead. In the mornings, he wrote Keep the Aspidistra Flying." [1] As the quotation cited above illustrates it well, the circumstances of the writing of the novel suggest a direct relationship between events in Orwell's life and events that make up the turning-points of Gordon Comstock's life in the novel. With reference to this parallelism it seems that the opinion of Comstock of the process of writing as such, and his attitude towards his own works can be regarded as George Orwell's own personal opinion of the matter. The clear and often violent and passionate language highlighting the novel shows the presence of the author and makes it hard not to see Orwell's own persuasions behind the sometimes ridiculous thoughts of Comstock. In what follows I will discuss how reliable the parallels mentioned above are by giving a list of events that enable the reader to come to such a conclusion. Firstly, I will demonstrate how direct the mentioned relationship between events in the novel and events in Orwell's life are by elaborating on a number of similarities; and also show how the author consciously changed some of the events corresponding with his own experiences. Secondly, I will focus on the process of writing and the problems concerning this matter by showing further examples from the novel. Lastly, I will put forward an interpretation suggesting parts of the novel -especially those concerning the process of writing and the ironic ending of the novel- to be understood as a sort of Ars Poetica.

The latter of the events described above also show how the author consciously downgraded some of the events in the novel, and also the behavior of the character of the protagonist to create a certain distance regarding the autobiographical foundation of his novel. For example, the protagonist of his novel gets imprisoned, but the professional need of the author, whose motive was to get imprisoned in order to have the possibility to study prisons is downgraded. It is far away from being the true intention of Gordon to get imprisoned, he just gets drunk and wakes up in a police cell. Another example of the author's will to create distance between himself and the figure of Gordon Comstock is the way Gordon's "war on money" gets downgraded to empty whining. The thoughts concerning the "money world" are clearly Orwell's; this is evident from his early essays and other works, nevertheless the much less impressive whining of Gordon suits the ironic ending of the novel better. The passive and accepting process during which the process becomes a whine is the sign of the eventual and seemingly necessary submission and defeat. [5] This form of submission can be regarded as the early manifestation of Orwell's pessimistic worldview, a reoccurring theme characterizing his most famous novels, Animal Farm and 1984 respectively.

The process of writing is one of the most important motives in the novel, as Gordon's attitude towards writing can be regarded as a symbol of his impotence, a flaw in his character most visible in his eventual defeat. Gordon has no difficulties in writing smaller poems. The readers are actually witnesses of him creating a short poem, the first few lines of which reoccur several times ("Sharply the menacing wind sweeps over the bending poplars, newly bare.). [6] However, although he seems to create shorter poems with ease, he has some major difficulties when dealing with his ambitious project, a long poem entitled London Pleasures. He has the intention to create this immense, two thousand lines long poem, written in rhyme royal, describing a day in London. However, although his mind is very often occupied with the state of his ambitious project, he is unable to write more than five hundred lines. "It was too big for him, that was the truth. It had never really progress, it had simply fallen apart into a series of fragments. And out of two years' work that was all that he had to show -just fragments, incomplete in themselves and impossible to join together." [7] However, the source of Gordon's bad feelings about his work is less his artistic incapability and more his absurd desire to create something spotless and perfect. Also, his opinion of his own achievements is very much dependent on his frequent mood swings. The passage quoted above show Gordon in a desperate state of mind, hence the bad review of the poem. Nevertheless, he seems to be more than content with his achievements when he is happy. For instance, consider the following extract. "He was Gordon Comstock, the poet, famous on both sides of the Atlantic. Publications: Mice (1932), London Pleasures (1935). He thought with perfect confidence of London Pleasures now. In three months it should see the light. Demy octavo, white buckram covers." [8] The passages cited above demonstrate well how directly the mood swings of Gordon result in his bad feelings regarding himself as an author.

There are two aspects of writing as a working process that define Gordon as a writer. First of all, there is his strict self-discipline. He looks upon writing as a form of work, trying to force himself to write. During this process it is not his lack of inspiration or talent, but rather the lack of effort that is named as the factor determining his failure. According to him, it is never even doubtful that given the right circumstances he would be able to accomplish his goal and finish London Pleasures. Another defining aspect of his attitude towards writing is his evaluation of his own works, his desire to create the perfect lines. He is uncertain about the actual value of his poems, a feeling that results in his never-ending rewriting of lines. The latter of these examples has its corresponding motive in Orwell's life. He too was trying to create something full and perfect; experimenting with similar themes and motives. His rejection of his earlier novels shows this ambitious endeavour. "There are two or three books which I am ashamed of and have not allowed to be reprinted or translated, and that (Keep the Aspidistra Flying) is one of them. There is even a worse one called A Clergyman's Daughter. This was written simply as an exercise, and I oughtn't to have published it, but I was desperate for money, ditto when I wrote Keep the Aspidistra Flying. [9] This rejected novel of Orwell show a remarkable consistency as far as its ending is concerned. In the end, Gordon throws away his ideas regarding the "money-world", and rejecting his former self with the sensation of relief becomes a member of the society he detested before. This decision of him to give up his principles results in his eventual failure as an author. The submission of the character of Gordon seems to result in his artistic failure, a symptom that can be interpreted as the author's personal view on the process of becoming a writer.

All in all, its seems that his submission, his acceptance of his final defeat deprives Gordon of the prospect of becoming a writer