Gordon has a lot of problems with the concept of money, and the ‘money world’ he thinks everyone is trapped in. He leaves his ‘good job’ and becomes poor on purpose to have more time to write. But Gordon’s rejection of capitalism doesn’t really work when he lives in a society that is capitalist. His rejection actually just leads to an obsession with money, wealth and poverty, and a lot of blaming his lack of money for everything, from his girlfriend not sleeping with him to a misunderstanding over the date for a party. To Gordon, it’s never his attitude, it’s always other people and his lack of money to blame.
Gordon is a very unlikeable character, in an excellent way. At times his unlikeability is enjoyable, at others you mostly want to punch him in the face. He treats his girlfriend Rosemary terribly most of the time, making her feel everything is her fault and often trying to guilt her into having sex with him. He also has a sister that has sacrificed everything for him her whole life, but he just continues to take what little she has and never pays her back when he has the means.
It did bother me that Gordon’s second boss, Mr Cheeseman, was described in great detail as ugly and physically deformed, as a signifier that he was not a nice man. I know it’s something to do with the time it was written, but oh Orwell, you’re a better writer than this disability/deformity = bad human rubbish.
Keep the Aspidistra Flying is an interesting look at capitalism and poverty because Gordon is so unlikeable and his solutions are terrible, but you never get the impression that it means Orwell is saying the capitalist system is a good thing, or that those in poverty have a choice.
Absolutely recommended if you enjoy unlikeable narrators / protagonists. Orwell’s writing style means it’s surprisingly quick and easy to read, but still thought-provoking.