GEORGE ORWELL COMING UP FOR AIR PDF
COMING UP FOR AIR. By. GEORGE ORWELL .. what do they call those things like French horns with presents coming out of them?— a cornucopia, out of. The idea really came to me the day I got my new false teeth. I remember the morning well. At about a quarter to eight I'd nipped out of bed and. Coming up for Air. George Orwell. 'He's dead, but he won't lie down' — Popular song. This web edition published by [email protected] Last updated.
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Coming up for Air. Read George Orwell's Coming up for Air free online! Click on any of the links on the right menubar to browse through Coming up for Air. George Orwell's background and a brief look at his works. . Orwell's fictional novels, Coming Up For Air (), which is written before the occurrence of World. Editorial Reviews. ppti.info Review. Insurance salesman George "Fatty" Bowling lives with his humorless wife and their two irritating children in a dull house.
Not that at that moment I particularly wanted any woman to look twice at me. But it struck me that this morning there were reasons why I ought to have been in a better mood. The Flying Salamander. And besides, there was another business that had been in and out of my mind for some time past. This was that I had seventeen quid which nobody else had heard about — nobody in the family, that is.
It had happened this way. Mellors, who was deeply bitten with this astrology business, was putting several quid on the horse and went down on his knees to me to do the same. I forget the exact odds, but my share worked out at seventeen quid. By a kind of instinct — rather queer, and probably indicating another landmark in my life — I just quietly put the money in the bank and said nothing to anybody.
The alternatives, it seemed to me, were either a week-end with a woman or dribbling it quietly away on odds and ends such as cigars and double whiskies. It was the kids, of course. Two kids in a house the size of ours is like a quart of beer in a pint mug. There was a frantic stamping outside and then a yell of agony. I wanna come in! Clear out! I wanna go somewhere! Hop it. I knew the danger signal.
The W. I hooked the plug out of the bath and got partially dry as quickly as I could. As I opened the door, little Billy — my youngest, aged seven — shot past me, dodging the smack which I aimed at his head. It was only when I was nearly dressed and looking for a tie that I discovered that my neck was still soapy.
I went downstairs in a bad temper and ready to make myself disagreeable. Old Hilda was glooming behind the teapot, in her usual state of alarm and dismay because the News Chronicle had announced that the price of butter was going up, or something. I bent down and put a match to the fire, breathing rather loudly through my nose bending always makes me puff and blow as a kind of hint to Hilda.
Hilda is thirty-nine, and when I first knew her she looked just like a hare. Only petty disasters, of course. As for wars, earthquakes, plagues, famines, and revolutions, she pays no attention to them. There are only the two of them, Billy, aged seven, and Lorna, aged eleven.
A great deal of the time I can hardly stick the sight of them. I ate my boiled egg and spread a piece of bread with Golden Crown marmalade. Hilda will persist in buying the stuff. This started me off, in the rather irritating way I have sometimes, talking about neutral fruit-trees, wondering what they looked like and what countries they grew in, until finally Hilda got angry.
The kids had gone off to play in the public gardens. It was a beastly raw morning. You know how these streets fester all over the inner-outer suburbs. Always the same. Long, long rows of little semi-detached houses — the numbers in Ellesmere Road run to and ours is — as much alike as council houses and generally uglier.
The stucco front, the creosoted gate, the privet hedge, the green front door.
That sticky feeling round my neck had put me into a demoralized kind of mood. It seems to take all the bounce out of you, like when you suddenly discover in a public place that the sole of one of your shoes is coming off.
I had no illusions about myself that morning. It was almost as if I could stand at a distance and watch myself coming down the road, with my fat, red face and my false teeth and my vulgar clothes. A chap like me is incapable of looking like a gentleman. The clothes I was wearing were practically the uniform of the tribe. Grey herring-bone suit, a bit the worse for wear, blue overcoat costing fifty shillings, bowler hat, and no gloves.
I had the street pretty much to myself. The men had bunked to catch the 8. Because, after all, what IS a road like Ellesmere Road? Just a prison with the cells all in a row. A line of semidetached torture-chambers where the poor little five-to-ten- pound-a-weekers quake and shiver, every one of them with the boss twisting his tail and his wife riding him like the nightmare and the kids sucking his blood like leeches.
Did you ever know a navvy who lay awake thinking about the sack? To begin with, nine-tenths of the people in Ellesmere Road are under the impression that they own their houses. Ellesmere Road, and the whole quarter surrounding it, until you get to the High Street, is part of a huge racket called the Hesperides Estate, the property of the Cheerful Credit Building Society.
Building societies are probably the cleverest racket of modern times.
You wallop them, and they lick your hand. It would be a queer sort of god. Among other things it would be bisexual. The top half would be a managing director and the bottom half would be a wife in the family way. In one hand it would carry an enormous key — the key of the workhouse, of course — and in the other — what do they call those things like French horns with presents coming out of them?
That represents a profit of a hundred and seventy for the Cheerful Credit, but needless to say that Cheerful Credit makes a lot more out of it than that. All it has to pay for is the materials. No use! But the really subtle swindle, the one that makes me feel old Crum deserved his baronetcy, is the mental one. I turned down Walpole Road and got into the High Street. When I got to the soap counter the floor- manager, or whatever his proper title is, was cursing the girl in charge there. Sometimes if you go in just after opening-time you see all the girls lined up in a row and given their morning curse, just to get them into trim for the day.
They say these big chain-stores have chaps with special powers of sarcasm and abuse who are sent from branch to branch to ginger the girls up.
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The floor-manager was an ugly little devil, under-sized, with very square shoulders and a spiky grey moustache. Ho, no! I turned away as quickly as I could and pretended to be interested in some stuff at the next counter, curtain rings or something. He was on to her again. He was one of those people who turn away and then suddenly dart back at you, like a dragon-fly. As I edged a bit farther off I had a glance at them. The girl was a kid about eighteen, rather fat, with a sort of moony face, the kind that would never get the change right anyway.
The girls at the other counters were pretending not to hear. Do you notice how often they have under-sized men for these bullying jobs? He was sticking his face, moustaches and all, almost into hers so as to scream at her better.
And the girl all pink and wriggling. Her face was still pink and her hands were trembling. I asked her for penny blades and she started fumbling in the threepenny tray. Then the little devil of a floor-manager turned our way and for a moment both of us thought he was coming back to begin again. The girl flinched like a dog that sees the whip.
But she was looking at me out of the corner of her eye. I cleared out with my razor-blades. Why do they stand it? I was thinking. Pure funk, of course. One back-answer and you get the sack. I thought of the lad that sometimes serves me at the chain-store grocery we deal at. Very true, sir!
Pleasant weather for the time of the year, sir! What can I have the pleasure of getting you today, sir? Orders, of course. The customer is always right. The thing you can see in his face is mortal dread that you might report him for impertinence and get him sacked. We swim in it.
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It crossed my mind that that little bastard with the spiky moustache was probably a damn sight more scared for his job than the girl was. Probably got a family to support. And by the same token you never read about a Spanish Inquisitor or one of these higher-ups in the Russian Ogpu without being told that in private life he was such a good kind man, best of husbands and fathers, devoted to his tame canary, and so forth. The girl at the soap counter was looking after me as I went out of the door.
Much more than she hated the floor- manager. For a minute or two it seemed to be keeping pace with the train. Two vulgar kind of blokes in shabby overcoats, obviously commercials of the lowest type, newspaper canvassers probably, were sitting opposite me. One of them was reading the Mail and the other was reading the Express. I was watching the backs of the houses sliding past. I was sitting with my back to the engine. One of the commercials cocked his eye at it for just a second.
I knew what he was thinking. Making a dive for the cellar, wetting our bags with fright. The commercial bloke put down his Daily Mail. The other commercial felt in his waistcoat pocket and took out a bent Woodbine. He felt in the other pocket and then leaned across to me. Suppose a chap was a hunchback or had a squint or a hare-lip — would you give him a nickname to remind him of it?
Waters has got a finger like a bar of iron. The commercial took another of my matches, to pick his teeth with, and chucked the box back.
The train whizzed on to an iron bridge. It kind of prevents you from taking things too hard. How could he? Just imagine a fat Hamlet, for instance! Or Oliver Hardy acting Romeo.
Wasted Passion, it was called. The chap in the story finds out that his girl has gone off with another chap. I remember more or less how the passage went: David paced up and down the room, his hands pressed to his forehead.
The news seemed to have stunned him. For a long time he could not believe it. Sheila untrue to him!
It could not be! Suddenly realization rushed over him, and he saw the fact in all its stark horror. It was too much. He flung himself down in a paroxysm of weeping. Anyway, it went something like that. And even at the time it started me thinking. There you have it, you see.
But how about a chap like me? Would anyone expect me to? It would be downright obscene. The train was running along an embankment. A little below us you could see the roofs of the houses stretching on and on, the little red roofs where the bombs are going to drop, a bit lighted up at this moment because a ray of sunshine was catching them.
Funny how we keep on thinking about bombs. The anti-aircraft guns have got so good that the bomber has to stay at twenty thousand feet. As for women, fat men have more luck with them than people seem to think. So long as anywhere in the world things are being sold on commission and livings are picked up by sheer brass and lack of finer feelings, chaps like me will be doing it.
Down below you could see the roofs of the houses stretching on and on, twisting this way and that with the streets, but stretching on and on, like an enormous plain that you could have ridden over. And no warning, probably. Houses going up into the air, bloomers soaked with blood, canary singing on above the corpses. Seems a pity somehow, I thought. I looked at the great sea of roofs stretching on and on. Miles and miles of streets, fried-fish shops, tin chapels, picture houses, little printing-shops up back alleys, factories, blocks of flats, whelk stalls, dairies, power stations — on and on and on.
And the peacefulness of it!
Like a great wilderness with no wild beasts. No guns firing, nobody chucking pineapples, nobody beating anybody else up with a rubber truncheon.
But how about five years from now? Or two years? Or one year? I was early for my appointment, but it was time for a bit of grub. He has performed the essential Jonah act of allowing himself to be swallowed, remaining passive, accepting — even when this means accepting "concentration camps, rubber truncheons, Hitler, Stalin , bombs, aeroplanes.
He merely wants to rediscover the grounds of happiness. In its central movement, Coming Up For Air is an unembarrassedly affirmative recovery of early-century innocence: The novel sold three thousand copies, a thousand of which represented a second printing and thus bettered "the dismal response in the bookshops which had met the publication of Homage to Catalonia.
Margery Allingham , in Time and Tide , wrote that her only regret "is that the story was written in the first person. This device, although it has the important virtue of making the narrative clear and easy to read, tends to falsify the character slightly since [Bowling's] uncanny perception where his own feelings are concerned makes him a little less of the ordinary mortal which his behaviour would show him to be.
The one serious defect in the novel is Orwell's attempt to be the voice of his narrator-protagonist. He does not make a convincing middle-aged, overweight, suburban-dwelling, low-brow insurance salesman, and the book is at its best when Orwell is 'out-of-character', speaking in a voice which is recognisably his rather than an imitation of 'Fatty' Bowling's.
But only to the boss at work, the economic boss. When Bowling thinks of the future, he fears not only the ever-present financial insecurity, the endless work, work, work with the gutter only a few steps away; he fears also the new breed of tyrants, the leader and his strong-arm boys. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Coming Up for Air disambiguation. Novels portal. A Personal Memoir , p.
It was a pretty banal predicament, after all. Private vice, public virtues — the dilemma is as old as the world. Our civilization is founded on greed and fear, but in the lives of common men the greed and fear are mysteriously transmuted into something nobler.
The lower-middle-class people in there, behind their lace curtains, with their children and their scraps of furniture and their aspidistras — they lived by the money code, sure enough, and yet they contrived to keep their decency. The money code as they interpreted it was not merely cynical and hoggish. They had their standards, their inviolable points of honour. Besides, they were alive. They were bound up in the bundle of life.
They begot children, which is what the saints and the soul-savers never by any chance do. As a new tyrannical god, money has replaced all religious values and condemns man to an infernal life in a dreary and soulless metropolis.
The earth is ploughed, ships sail, miners sweat in dripping tunnels underground, clerks hurry for the eight-fifteen with the fear of the boss eating at their vitals. And even in bed with their wives they tremble and obey. Obey whom? The money-priesthood, the pink-faced masters of the world. Gordon sees desolation and prophecies of doom behind the seemingly optimistic manifestations of life on the advertising posters: Behind that slick self-satisfaction, that tittering fat-bellied triviality, there is nothing but a frightful emptiness, a secret despair.
The great death-wish of the modern world. Suicide pacts. Heads stuck in gas-ovens in lonely maisonettes. Yes, war is coming soon. The electric drills in our streets presage the rattle of the machine guns. Therefore the hatred of modern life, the desire to see our money-civilization blown to hell by bombs, was a thing he genuinely felt.
The fact that Gordon revolts with hysterical, self-pitying bitterness against a situation which he has deliberately chosen deprives it of the moral significance inherent in the acceptance of pain and suffering. But his final surrender to middle-class respectability is hardly less baffling. Modern society, Orwell concludes, is so organized that by ignoring money one is simply rejected from the stream of life.
One of the secondary themes of the novel is that the god of money even prevents life from going on And lays the sleek, estranging shield Between the lover and his bride. To recapture a sense of traditional decency in English life is the main preoccupation of George Bowling, the hero of Coming Up for Air He is a fat, jovial insurance salesman, who leads a life of petty middle-class conformity in a London suburb and feels the tyranny of his nagging wife, his children and his job closing in upon him.
At the beginning of the novel he describes his environment and the people of his class with ironical perspicacity: 21 George Orwell, Coming Up for Air, London, , pp. You know how these streets fester all over the inner-outer suburbs? Always the same. Long, long rows of little semi-detached houses — the numbers in Ellesmere Road run to and ours is — as much alike as council houses and generally uglier.
The stucco front, the creosoted gate, the privet hedge, the green front door. Just a prison with the cells all in a row. A line of semi-detached torture chambers where the poor little five-to-ten-pound-a-weekers quake and shiver, every one of them with the boss twisting his tail and the wife riding him like the nightmare and the kids sucking his blood like leeches.
Fear is the main reason for their docility. Well, the chief one is an everlasting, frantic struggle to sell things. But it was the spirit of the time. Get on! Make good! If you see a man down, jump on his guts before he gets up again.
Listening to a lecture on fascism at the Left Book Club, Bowling is struck by the fact that the lecturer is inspired by hatred only: It was a voice that sounded as if it could go on for a fortnight without stopping. The same thing over and over again. Hate, hate.
Gang up, choose your Leader. Both mean spanners and smashed faces. He is not pleading for peace but attacking the inhuman attitude of men who have lost all notion of traditional decency and are insane with hatred. Such men, Orwell contends, are to be found on the Left as well as on the Right: their fanatical attitude dehumanizes human relations.
In an essay entitled Raffles and Miss Blandish Orwell shows that violence in modern life is a token of moral degradation. Orwell attacks the indifference to morals which makes people accept violence, cruelty and perversion as normal and will eventually lead to the acceptance of an existence controlled by power and hatred.
As George Bowling remarks, it is the after-war that matters because the brutal fanaticism responsible for the War will have transformed the world into a hate-world, a slogan world: The coloured shirts, the barbed wire, the rubber truncheons.
The secret cells where the electric light burns night and day, and the detectives watching you while you sleep. And the processions and the posters with enormous faces, and the crowds of a million people all cheering for the Leader till they deafen themselves into thinking that they really worship him, and all the time, underneath, they hate him so that they want to puke.
It was a stable life, in which people felt secure, never realizing that the old world was coming to an end or could ever change. After him! Stop him! When he comes to Lower Binfield, he finds that his village is transformed beyond recognition; it is now a fair-sized town surrounded with industrial concerns. There is even a bomb factory nearby and a big military aerodrome. No one recognizes him or even seems to recall his name.
A house is destroyed and several people are killed or wounded.
This makes him realize for good how chimerical his desire to rediscover the old way of life was. The bombs, the foodqueues…. Fight against it if you like, or look the other way and pretend not to notice, or grab your spanner and rush out to do a bit of face-smashing along with the others. In Keep the Aspidistra Flying Gordon Comstock settled down to middle-class respectability with a newly acquired conviction that this was the only way if he wanted to live decently in modern society.
This is precisely the kind of life from which George Bowling feels the need to escape after fifteen years of marriage. Their way of life is the only possible one in an industrial and capitalistic society. Happiness may depend on successful personal relationships, but even Gordon and Rosemary would have found that their every-day life could not remain untinged with fear.
Indeed, in all his novels Orwell shows that genuine personal relations cannot flourish in the oppressing atmosphere of modern life. Man has come to a deadlock, and retreat is impossible. By revisiting Lower Binfield, George Bowling commits the same mistake as his friend Porteous, but he understands that those who cling to the stable civilization which made life secure and peaceful, cling to something that is dead and are therefore dead themselves.
This German person? My dear fellow! Dead men and live gorillas. Some critics stress the fact that he glorifies a way of life which is essentially conservative and whose preservation would have meant the continuation of hard working conditions, little or no education for the poor and more generally a very unsatisfactory existence for the unprivileged.
But this is rather beside the point because Orwell does not glorify or sentimentalize the hardships of the poor. Neither materialism nor the hysterical fear which turn men into brutes will save them from the horrors of totalitarianism. Orwell wants decency to prevail as the best guarantee against the temptation to yield to fear and hate.
With the majority of people decency is smothered by the petty cares of a harassed existence. In Coming up for Air Orwell succeeds better than in his previous novels in blending the experience of his main character with the development of his theme.
He renders the atmosphere of fear and hatred which developed in pre-war days and coexisted with incredulity and indifference. At the same time, he shows how unreal and irrelevant these feelings and attitudes could become for the ordinary man facing the dismal realities of his everyday life.
He saw mankind as hopelessly divided into categories which imprisoned people into fixed rules and attitudes and made real communication impossible. The gap between the ruler and the ruled cannot be bridged more easily in Burmese Days than in In English society the passage from one class to another puts such a strain on the individual that it often entails a psychological breakdown.
On the contrary, they are made keenly aware of their limitations as human beings. It is their problems and preoccupations that he dramatizes, and he obviously thought that, more than any social group, they were the victims of industrialism and progress. They were either unable to adapt themselves to new conditions or forced by financial and industrial tyrants into a life-time of depressing suburban conformity.Veraswami is not without self-respect.
With the majority of people decency is smothered by the petty cares of a harassed existence. Shooter was a short fat man with a very pink, smooth face, a big nose, drooping moustache, and a chin that kind of fell away beneath his mouth.
Hilda will persist in buying the stuff. Is it going to happen?
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