Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

George Bowling

George Bowling, a forty-five-year-old insurance representative. Fat and sentimental, with a mouth full of false teeth, George is in every way the lower-middle-class Englishman, even to his love of reading and his nostalgia for an Edwardian, pre-World War I past that can no longer be found, except perhaps in memory. In order to escape the increasingly bland routine in his London suburban home, as well as his complaining wife and children, George fantasizes about taking a trip to his childhood home of Lower Binfield, a small town in rural Oxfordshire. He discovers, however, that one cannot go home again, for Lower Binfield, as many towns have, has become devoid of individuality as a result of “progress.” The childhood carp pool George dreams about fishing in again, for example, has become a rubbish dump in the middle of a housing tract of fake Tudor homes. George’s family home and the family business of Samuel Bowling, Corn & Seed Merchant has been reduced to Wendy’s Tea-Shop. George is a sentimentalist who gets teary over primroses, a middle-aged man who fantasizes about women without being able to do anything about them. He wants only peace and an authentic England, and he is right in his predictions about the start of World War II and about what will happen to England after the war: It will become even more standardized. George is a fleshy, three-dimensional character who is both a sentimentalist about the past and a...

(The entire section is 474 words.)

Coming Up for Air The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

George Bowling is one of George Orwell’s most memorable fictional creations, which is all the more remarkable considering that the author himself was a thin, tubercular, leftist intellectual at the time of this writing. Orwell created a three-dimensional imaginary character who is almost totally unlike his creator. (The only points at which they meet are in their love of reading and in their nostalgia for a past that can no longer be found, except in memory.)

George Bowling is not a pretty character: fat and forty-five, with a mouth full of false teeth. (“No woman, I thought as I worked the soap round my belly, will ever look twice at me again, unless she’s paid to.”) He is in nearly every way normal: “But I’d been a good husband and father for fifteen years and I was beginning to get fed up with it.” He scrutinizes himself often in this novel of mid-life crisis, and his self-appraisal is fairly accurate:I’m vulgar, I’m insensitive, and I fit in with my environment. 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.

On the other hand, George complains, people often forget that a fat man has feelings; “I’m fat, but I’m thin inside.”

Most of George’s feelings are for his past, for the happy childhood years in Lower Binfield. Even though change was occurring even then (his father, after...

(The entire section is 458 words.)

Coming Up for Air Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Hammond, J. R. A George Orwell Companion, 1982.

Lee, Robert A. Orwell’s Fiction, 1969.

Patai, Daphne. The Orwell Mystique, 1984.