Girl problems, money problems, houseplant problems. Things are not going Gordon’s way. Money has become Gordon Comstock’s all-consuming idée fixe (followed closely by aspidistras). Gordon, who comes from “one of those depressing families, so common among the middle-middle classes, in which nothing ever happens
,” refuses to be a slave to the “money-god.” He gives up a relatively well paying but soulless job at an advertising agency, a job that furthers the evils of the capitalism that he deplores. He instead deliberately seeks out a position in a bookshop with low pay and no hope of advancement while he struggles at writing his poetry.
At first this decision may appear noble and idealistic, but Gordon rapidly ceases to be a sympathetic character as he mooches money off of his long-suffering and far from wealthy sister and complains nonstop to everyone who will listen about both the evils of money and how difficult it is for him not to have money. As he points out, he isn’t poor enough to experience actual hardship (unlike many in the 1930s), but is poor enough that everything from socializing with friends to courting his girlfriend to writing poetry to having a cup of tea without having to hide it from the landlady is nearly impossible.
His lack of money, which is at least partially self-inflicted, becomes Gordon’s excuse for all that he has failed to achieve in his life. His endless whining is so pervasive that you want to shake him. Gordon is hardly the most charming of protagonists, but his tragic fall and relationship with his saintly girlfriend, Rosemary, are still compelling, largely due to Orwell’s vivid characterizations.Keep the Aspidistra Flying
is not nearly as aggressively political as Orwell’s more famous works. The novel is more concerned with interpersonal relationships, but still addresses the larger issues of capitalism, socialism, and class division in a darkly humorous manner.