|This is an example of an Aspidistra, a house plant that Orwell uses as a symbol of respectability and homage to the "money god."|
Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936)
by George Orwell
I studied in London my junior year of undergraduate, and while I was there I wrote a term paper on George Orwell. One of the subjects that Orwell covers is the experience of being poor in a big city. Most notably in his "tramping adventure" non-fiction work of Down and Out in London and Paris but also in Keep the Aspidistra Flying, which is a memorable fictional work about Gordon Comstock, an erstwhile ad copywriter determined to make it as a poet. An "Aspidistra" is a houseplant that Orwell/Comstock uses as a symbol of lower middle class bourgeois conformity. Keep the Aspidistra shows its age, but personally I've found Orwell's critique of the perils of poverty to be convincing, and though I hadn't read Aspidistra before, Down and Out in London and Paris deeply influenced my personal decision to go to law school instead of "being a writer."
Decades later, and I'm happy with the decision, and Aspidistra simply reminded me of why I made the decision in the first place. Poverty is bad enough, but avoidable poverty is the worst.