ORWELL & TRESSELL ASPIDISTRAS

To Orwell Today,
re: Reader says Robert Trussell is similar to Orwell

Hi Jackie,

In ORWELL'S book "Keep The Aspidistra Flying" he makes the following reference to Tressell's book "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist":

"It was about this time that he came across "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist" and read about the starving carpenter who pawns everything but sticks to his "ASPIDISTRA". The aspidistra became a sort of symbol for Gordon after that. The aspidistra, flower of England! It ought to be on our coat of arms instead of the lion and the unicorn. There will be no revolution in England while there are aspidstras in the windows."

Regards,
Raymond Wills

PS - Reading this extract from one of ORWELL'S finest works I believe shows that not only was he familiar with Tressell's book but that its message had had an influence on ORWELL'S work.

Greetings Raymond,

I guess I HAVE heard of the book "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist" afterall, but just didn't notice it when reading "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" (one of my favourite Orwell books). So thanks for pointing that out. No doubt Tressell WAS an influence on Orwell, what with his connection to the aspidistra and all.

Orwell seemed to have a love-hate relationship with the aspidistra plant.

Here's the hate part, taken from an opening chapter of "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" where the hero Gordon Comstock (Orwell in disguise) has just come home to his lowly room in the boarding house:

"...As Gordon threw away the match his eye fell upon the aspidistra in its grass-green pot. It was a peculiarly mangy specimen. It had only seven leaves and never seemed to put forth any new ones. Gordon had a sort of secret feud with the aspidistra. Many a time he had furtively attempted to kill it starving it of water, grinding hot cigarette-ends against its stem, even mixing salt with its earth. But the beastly things are practically immortal. In almost any circumstances they can preserve a wilting, diseased existence. Gordon stood up and deliberately wiped his kerosiny fingers on the aspidistra leaves...."

And here's the love part, taken from the closing paragraphs of "Keep the Aspidistra Flying", after Gordon and his pregnant girlfriend Rosemary have recently gotten married and are having their first cup of tea in their new flat. Gordon is trying to convince her that they need an aspidistra:

"...'I tell you we've got to have an aspidistra.'

'But why?'

'It's the proper thing to have. It's the first thing one buys after one's married. In fact, it's practically part of the wedding ceremony.'

'Don't be so absurd! I simply couldn't bear to have one of those things in here. You shall have a geranium if you really must. But not an aspidistra.'

'A geranium's no good. It's an aspidistra we want.'

'Well, we're not going to have one, that's that.'

'Yes, we are. Didn't you promise to obey me just now?'

'No, I did not. We weren't married in church.'

'Oh, well, it's implied in the marriage service. "Love, honour, and obey" and all that.'

'No, it isn't. Anyway we aren't going to have that aspidistra.'

'Yes, we are.'

'We are not, Gordon!'

'Yes.'

'No!'

'Yes!'

'No!'

She did not understand him. She thought he was merely being perverse. They grew heated, and, according to their habit, quarrelled violently. It was their first quarrel as man and wife. Half an hour later they went out to the florist's to order the aspidistra...."

All the best,
Jackie Jura

PS - The biggest what? explains how tough the aspidistra is, which helps a person understand Gordon's challenge in killing it.

PPS - After reading the following links I'm very interested in reading Tressell's book. He and Orwell definitely seem like-minded and similar in other ways, even up to and including their deaths from tuberculosis:

BIGGEST ASPIDISTRA IN ORWELL WORLD

Book review of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, by Robert Tressell

Biographical article about Robert Tressell (real name Robert Noonan)

ASPIDISTRA ORWELL ON ABORTION and BIGGEST ASPIDISTRA IN ORWELL WORLD

Reader says Robert Trussell, author of the book "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist" is similar to Orwell

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

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