Little did I know that I would also be living a dream of sorts, namely the ‘living’ part, in a new house a few months after reading this. Finding my life partly mirroring that of Orwell and his fictional counterpart Gordon Comstock, being that I am living in relative poverty moneywise, I was prepared for a life of dire consequences and hunger. My life has turned out a lot less dramatic than all that, thankfully.
Gordon Comstock hates how society worships money and decides to quit his ‘respectable’ advertising job (he’s one of those people responsible for those meaningless slogans that somehow tempt people into buying stuff), to work part-time in a bookshop, to write and earn a respectable living.
However this idealised and somehow noble lifestyle which is one that probably appeals to more people than just me is fraught with poverty, hunger and social anonymity that start to wear down his spirit and creativity.
Interestingly I find myself in the same sort position, not enough hours in my job, tight with money out of necessity and socially I tend to keep my own company more often than not. Having said that the internet helps me keep up with people nand keeps me inspired, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
Gordon’s world however is a place of dullness and malaise, his desire to give up on the capitalist world is at once noble and doomed to failure in this bleak satirical work, which throughout does retain a skein of warmth(?) whilst highlighting the ever widening gap between rich and poor and all the injustice that goes with it.
Giving up capitalism doesn’t work unless everyone does it and what at first seems a noble crusade ends up as something militant as he becomes more of an anti-hero the more you read of his journey to understanding, the ending is ambiguous and does make you consider exactly how societies values make us happy to any extent. It also makes you question just which sphere of society is the more horrible place to live.
Orwell is as prophetic as usual, especially with the advertising industry bits but, unlike his later works this sometimes becomes a slightly grinding and much less fluent read, much like the character’s daily life. That said it does contain enough of the authors cutting observations and foresight to make this worth a read.
Orwell like any normal person recognised the evils of capitalism but had the sense to accept it as it won’t change anytime soon. Ironically there were lots of edits to the novel as Mr O’s observances and parodies of certain firms were a little to close to the truth and threatened law suits.