Sunday, June 4, 2006

Orwell and Bond

"...If the Bond novels are useful to historians, then it is as a source about the social decline of the upper middle class rather than the decline of Britain as a Great Power. In many ways, Fleming/Bond are similar to that other odd couple of British letters – Eric Blair and George Orwell. Orwell, like Bond, is a dramatized version of his creator. Orwell wrote of the humiliation that came from knowing how to hunt and shoot but realizing that one would never have the means to do these things. Bond belongs to an epoch when this dilemma touched ever larger sections of the British upper-middle class. Bond’s own financial circumstances and family background are a bit confused – sometimes he has a small private income, and sometimes he lives off his salary, but he is always aware of having, as he puts it himself, “not quite enough” money. You could escape this world (as Orwell did) by sinking out of the middle class, or you could escape (as in the Bond novels) by living the high life, courtesy of a Secret Service expense account. I suspect that the single line that excited British readers most in the Bond novels occurs in Moonraker: “When he was on a job he could spend as much as he liked”..."