Department Chair

Dr. Lisa Berglund

Date of Award


Access Control

Campus-Only Access

Degree Name

English, M.A.


English Department


Dr. Jennifer Ryan-Bryant

Department Home page

First Reader

Dr. Jennifer Ryan-Bryant

Second Reader

Dr. Aimable Twagilimana


In this thesis, I examine how men in England, particularly after the First World War, became increasingly estranged from society. A sense of disconnection was rooted within the individual as he struggled to maintain his identity during a period of post-industrial development. In an age that valued the system of production and its economics over the individual, men functioned as cogs that kept the societal machine running. This perfunctory behavior forced them to forfeit their individuality and deal with its loss. These are chronic themes within George Orwell’s novels, particularly those written during the interwar period, such as Coming Up for Air (1939) and Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936), which are the focus of this thesis. I also explore how concepts such as nostalgia appeal to an individual who lacks hope in his present state and future condition, since the main protagonists in both novels often recur to such notions to aid in their search for autonomy. Furthermore, once men begin to question the futility and the purpose of their existence, it precipitates them into an existential crisis. As I discuss the existentialist nature of their search, I revert to secondary sources such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, among others. While the concentration of this study will be on the above novels, I also consult a few of Orwell’s other texts, namely Nineteen Eighty-Four, to demonstrate how themes of nostalgia, loss of identity, and feelings of estrangement are effectively used in his narratives and as articulated in this thesis.

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