Yet another weird SF fan

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Yet another weird SF fan

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Contradiction in First Things Article?

A recent article on George Orwell has a few paragraphs that don't quite belong together. One the one hand, we have:

A second example. In Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Orwell describes his protagonist’s reaction to a suggestion from the girl he has gotten pregnant that she might have an abortion, and that it can be done for only five pounds:

That pulled him up. For the first time he grasped, with the only kind of knowledge that matters, what they were really talking about. The words “a baby” took on a new significance. They did not mean any longer a mere abstract disaster, they meant a bud of flesh, a bit of himself, down there in her belly, alive and growing. His eyes met hers. They had a strange moment of sympathy such as they had never had before. For a moment he did feel that in some mysterious way they were one flesh. Though they were feet apart he felt as though they were joined together—as though some invisible living cord stretched from her entrails to his. He knew then that it was a dreadful thing they were contemplating—a blasphemy, if that word had any meaning.

As the nature of the phenomenon, the suggested abortion, becomes clear to Gordon Comstock, the novel’s antihero, his response follows naturally and spontaneously. He sees clearly and reacts properly. No theory is needed. If he didn’t see, argument about abortion’s evils would be of no use.

and on the other hand, we have:

This last point connects it to a fourth and final example. In Coming Up For Air, Orwell contrasts his protagonist’s memories of the English countryside on the eve of the First World War with its reality on the eve of the Second. A favorite fishing-pool has become a rubbish dump full of tin cans; a stretch of the Thames that used to harbor herons and alders has become a wasteland of “rowing-boats, canoes, punts, motor-launches, full of young fools with next to nothing on, all of them screaming and shouting and most of them with a gramophone aboard.”

Hel-lo! Human beings crowding out “Nature” is what happens when unaborted fetuses grow up. You may prefer them to have more dignified clothes or music, but they will crowd out “Nature” nonetheless.

We can see the problem more clearly a few lines later:

But in Orwell’s mind, these would be justifications that obscure what everybody really knows, which is that these things are wrong, revoltingly offensive to the natural order. Coolies are not there to be kicked; babies are not there to be killed; people are not there to be forced into near-starvation by industrialization; meadows and moorlands are not there to be turned into slag-heaps; and so on.
One of these things doesn't belong here. The first three examples of moral offenses involve actual people. The fourth example involves swamps.


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