Keep the Aspidistra Flying
By George Orwell
Gordon Comstock was the author of his book of poetry entitled Mice, the verses of which had been deposited above the rows of novels loitering with their irritating and irksome spines on the shelves below. Like all his hopes and aspirations which strengthened his desire to become a poet “of exceptional promise,” The Times Lit.Supp” had said, they had been left languishing in their day-dreaming doldrums. The book shop in which he worked became a torture chamber where customer stereotypes only added to the day to day monotony of seeing outdated books gathering dust, together with other spineless rodents destined for the waste-paper basket. He lived in a bedsit at 31 Willowbed Road, north-west London, the rent of which was twenty-seven and six a week. The road in which his landlady Mrs Wisbeach maintained her lower-middle-class decency. His room consisted of a bed, a defective oil lamp, a water jug with a wash basin, and under the window stood a kitchen table which he used as a writing desk. On the window sill stood a green glazed pot in which grew an aspidistra, a weak sickly specimen which he tried to kill several time but which he had resorted to using as a cigarette stubber. However he underestimated the plant’s durability and what it represented in his life.
His pipe line dream hinged on the publication of his two poems which had been sent to the Primrose Quarterly and the Californian Review. Hence the only life line that offered a glimmer of hope in his otherwise pitiful existence was the post, and which his landlady always managed to get her hands on before their delayed distribution. Prior to plunging himself into poverty earning £2.00 a week at Mr McKechnie’s book shop he worked in the accounts department of the advertising agency the New Albion. Their slogan being “The public are swine, advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.” After a short period of time Mr Erskine the Managing Director promoted him to a special post as a secretary, an apprentice working with Mr Clew the New Albion’s head copywriter. It was a job to which he was well suited and in which he could easily string a few carefully chosen lines together with snazzy, well oiled, catchy phrases. However, the lure of the money god was sucking dry whatever goodness his soul might possess and leaving him void for his passion for poetry. He needed more freedom with which to enhance his desire to write poetry, and not to be a mere furniture piece thinking of ways in which he could exploit the virtues of the perfect panacea.
Without the price of a pack of cigarettes he was lumbered with three long laborious days which lay ahead with only four measly cigarettes with which to curtail his nicotine craving. After leaving the New Albion he began to hate and despise the lure of commercialized crappy posters with their cosmopolitan images depicting the surreal world from which he had imposed his own self exile. Out of the gloom and doom of the streets the words to his poem began to emerge, his revision of each painful line was like chewing-gum from which he tried to extract the maximum flavour from which little gumption remained.
The material world can be temporarily blotted out with meditation, but the money god encroaches on every aspect of our lives. Consequently with every page that follows his mental blisters begin to fester and then develop in bloody-red ulcers. The status quo becomes an incessant night mare , hence the demon within was considering a poke, and so it was with relish that his spear began gently prodding with its razor sharp prongs any chinks with might strengthen his desire to join forces with the money god. The money god began to make inroads into his demonetization because he knew he had to rub shoulders with men of influence if he was to become a successful poet. Ravelston a well educated middle class chap was the editor of the magazine Antichrist. He was one of few friends with whom he could have an intellectual conversation, however there was a clash of ideologies and a slight feeling of resentment having a friend from such a privileged background. Little did he know the role Ravelston was to play when he was in need of help from the money god.
How the letter came to be in his pocket was a mystery but it felt like something special had arrive in the post that morning. The thought of publication had lingered in his mind over the passed long six weeks hoping the day would arrive with the recognition to which he was entitled. His opened letter was met with jubilation when he discovered a cheque to the value of £10.00 which had been sent to him via courtesy of Californian Review. It was time to celebrate and the evening began by treating his girlfriend Rosemany and Ravelston to a sumptuous meal washed down with three bottles of bubbly. Together with the drinks he had consumed during the day their effects were beginning to blur his vision and slur his speech. Undeterred by the concern his party had given him the evening turns into the night of all mares. Having assaulted a policeman the previous night the morning after began in a stone-cold, sober cell with a five pound fine to pay or a fourteen day jail sentence.
Ravelston bails him out, however his drunken escapade was published in a local news paper leading to his dismissal at the book shop. With no savings in his bank account and with destitution looming Ravelston allows his to lodge at his house. He becomes depressed but finally finds a job which reduces him to living in a slum. Rosemary becomes pregnant and considers having an abortion, pondering this dreadful dilemma a call from his conscience forces his to embrace the money god culture. “It’s when it gets you through your sense of decency there he finds you helpless.” He rejoins the New Albion before marrying Rosemary where they live together in the lap of the money god. Having moved to a flat in Edgware Road, “This is where we’ll put the aspidistra,” said he. ”Put what?” “The aspidistra.” She laughed. “We must remember to go out and order it before all the florists are shut.”