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Orwell and Gissing


Mark Connelly

Three generations of critics have commented on the parallels between George Orwell and his favorite novelist, George Gissing. «I am a great fan of his,» Orwell wrote in 1948, proclaiming «that England has produced very few better novelists.» This in-depth study reveals that Orwell drew heavily on the Gissing novels he admired in shaping his own. Gissing's New Grub Street and The Odd Women directly influenced Orwell's Depression-era novels Keep the Aspidstra Flying and A Clergyman's Daughter. Even Orwell's most imaginative work, Animal Farm, mirrors Gissing's own novel of a failed Socialist Utopia, Demos. Gissing was Orwell's role model and alter ego. Gissing provided him with a touchstone to his beliefs, his pessimism, his love of Dickens and cozy corners, his suspicion of «progress,» his restless sexuality. To understand Orwell fully, one must first read Gissing.