Tuesday, 16 November 2010

George Orwell Nails the Reverse Snob

Presently reading George Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying, a terribly sad little novel, of which Orwell himself was not particularly fond. He claimed that he wrote it for the money, and then wished that he hadn't. Yet the bleak depiction of Gordon Comstock's life, and his fruitless attempts to escape the "money god," captures so thoroughly the dull listlessness of the Thirties that is reflected in the writer's other famous works -- Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) prime among them.

And, being Orwell, he captures the bland hypocrisy of much of the "socialist" political elements of his day. The penniless Gordon Comstock at one point goes out for an evening with his posh friend P.W.H. Ravelston, a man who self-consciously attempts to disguise himself as a rabble-rousing member of the proletariat. Editor of the inflammatory leftist publication "Antichrist," he feigns a poverty he cannot truly claim. Orwell's description of this inverse pretension is priceless:
It would have astonished Ravelston to learn that his four-roomed flat, which he thought of as a poky little place, [made Gordon feel shabby]. To Ravelston, living in the wilds of Regent's Park was practically the same thing as living in the slums; he had chosen to live there, en bon socialiste, precisely as your social snob will live in a mews in Mayfair for the sake of the 'W.1' on his notepaper. It was part of a life-long attempt to escape from his own class and become, as it were, an honorary member of the proletariat. Like all such attempts, it was foredoomed to failure. No rich man ever succeeds in disguising himself as a poor man; for money, like murder, will [be found] out.

Read more reflections on history, idleness, and the art of living from the Idle Historian in To The Idler The Spoils 


vir beātum said...

Comrade Bingo. Apt, no?

IdleHistorian said...

Yes! I quite love what Bertie says when he is asked if he is looking foward to the "Red Dawn": "The whole hub of the scheme seems to be to massacre coves like me. I'm not frightfully keen on the idea".

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