“Here was St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States. How to build a hotel to meet the requirements of nineteenth century America and have it in keeping with the character of the place? that was my hardest problem.” – Henry Flagler
In both cases, the places they were from was just as important as who they were. The first is George B. Wilson from The Great Gatsby:
“The only building in site was small block of yellow brick sitting on the edge of the waste land, a sort of compact Main Street ministering to it, and contiguous to absolutely nothing. One of the three shops it contained was for rent and another was an all-night restaurant, approached by a trail of ashes; the third was a garage–Repairs. GEORGE B. WILSON. Cars bought and sold.– and I followed Tom inside.
The interior was unprosperous and bare; the only car visible was the dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched in a dim corner. It had occurred to me that this shadow of a garage must be a blind, and that sumptuous and romantic apartments were concealed overhead, when the proprietor himself appeared in the door of an office, wiping his hands on a piece of waste. He was a blond, spiritless man, anemic, and faintly handsome. When he saw us a damp gleam of hope sprang into his light blue eyes.”
The other is Mr. Charrington from 1984:
“The tiny interior of the shop was in fact uncomfortably full, but there was almost nothing in it of the slightest value. The floorspace was very restricted, because all round the walls were stacked innumerable dusty picture-frames…but he lingered for some minutes more, talking to the old man, whose name, he discovered, was not Weeks – as one might have gathered from the inscription over the shop-front – but Charrington. Mr Charrington, it seemed, was a widower aged sixty-three and had inhabited this shop for thirty years. Throughout that time he had been intending to alter the name over the window, but had never quite got to the point of doing it.”
Mr. Charrington of course betrays Winston and Julia.
In my next post, I’m going to comment on our fondness for “useless” things, and the importance of the those things Orwell referred to as, “solid objects and scraps of useless information.” I’ll also give you a good excuse to turn your living-space into a Mathom-house (thanks Tolkien).
Image courtesy of the Limestone Roof Photo Archives.