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A searing account of George Orwell’s experiences of working-class life in the bleak industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire, The Road to Wigan Pier is a brilliant and bitter polemic that has lost none of its political impact over time. His graphically unforgettable descriptions of social injustice, slum housing, mining conditions, squalor, hunger and growing unem A searing account of George Orwell’s experiences of working-class life in the bleak industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire, The Road to Wigan Pier is a brilliant and bitter polemic that has lost none of its political impact over time. His graphically unforgettable descriptions of social injustice, slum housing, mining conditions, squalor, hunger and growing unemployment are written with unblinking honesty, fury and great humanity.


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A searing account of George Orwell’s experiences of working-class life in the bleak industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire, The Road to Wigan Pier is a brilliant and bitter polemic that has lost none of its political impact over time. His graphically unforgettable descriptions of social injustice, slum housing, mining conditions, squalor, hunger and growing unem A searing account of George Orwell’s experiences of working-class life in the bleak industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire, The Road to Wigan Pier is a brilliant and bitter polemic that has lost none of its political impact over time. His graphically unforgettable descriptions of social injustice, slum housing, mining conditions, squalor, hunger and growing unemployment are written with unblinking honesty, fury and great humanity.

30 review for The Road to Wigan Pier

  1. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    The Road to Wigan Pier & 1984: A Parallel Analysis Commissioned fortuitously in the period when Socialism was on the retreat and Fascism on the rise, Orwell must already have begun to glimpse the world which he was to envision with vigorous clarity in ‘1984’. This review is a dual review then, of ‘1984’ and of ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’. Written ostensibly as a documentary-report on the life of the working classes in the industrial towns of england, Orwell uses his reportage to investigate two cruci The Road to Wigan Pier & 1984: A Parallel Analysis Commissioned fortuitously in the period when Socialism was on the retreat and Fascism on the rise, Orwell must already have begun to glimpse the world which he was to envision with vigorous clarity in ‘1984’. This review is a dual review then, of ‘1984’ and of ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’. Written ostensibly as a documentary-report on the life of the working classes in the industrial towns of england, Orwell uses his reportage to investigate two crucial questions: 1. Why class differences persist even when the means exist to destroy them 2. Why socialism is failing practically and intellectually even as the moral facet (of its rectitude) is irrefutable (to his mind, at least) The reader has to be warned that The Road to Wigan Pier can seem a bit rambling (or circuitous!) at times but is in fact a tight composition and has been echoed by many writers since Orwell. The structure of the piece is quite elegant: In the first section, Orwell provides a direct detailing of the life in the ‘industrial towns’, of the proletariat, of the toiling classes. It is evocative and reminded me strongly of Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity in depth of detail and emotional involvement. It is a quick tour but captures the essential cruelties and degradation of life - rotten housing, lack of toilets, unemployment - and the complete hopelessness of it all. But just as Boo does later, Orwell also manages to convey that it is not due to the people, it is purely due to the conditions imposed on them. Orwell is very careful to drill this point home. It is the situations that make the classes. This is exactly what I expected from the title of the book though I had also been resigned to some amount of political commentary, Orwell being Orwell. But soon the real purpose of the book starts to take shape and for a while I felt disappointed. But Orwell soon reveals the purpose behind his autobiographical excursions in the second part of the book and now I have come to regard this second section as the most vital. It is a narrative technique which I am now starting to notice in a number of other authors trying to grapple with class differences, including Suketu Mehta in Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, trying to come to terms with a riven Bombay. So, in this second, and to me most important, section, Orwell exposes his own biases and prejudices through a frank autobiographical study. He opens up his own upbringing to show how prejudices creep in and establish themselves in our psyche and never let go no matter how hard we hammer at them. Situating himself as a symbol of the middle class, Orwell uses this sketch to convey how we are all prey to such class prejudices and that we need to work within our own limitations and especially of the one’s we are trying to convert to the specialist cause (by we, I mean the Left Book Club - the intended audience of the book). He uses the pungent example of ‘lower classes smell’ as an irrevocable class barrier. This has come under much criticism but it is important to keep in mind that it is only an example, he could have gone with the ‘non-pronouncement of the ‘H’s’ or any other minor but hard to avoid detail. To criticize the choice of detail is besides the point. Then comes the last section: the fulmination and the grand rhetoric. This section is the hardest to agree with and feels the most dated to the modern reader. Orwell tries to examine his second major point - Why is Socialism Declining? His answer is that it is because it is associated with mindless mechanized progress - due to the wrong instruments of propaganda which are turning away all the right sort of people and bringing only the ‘quacks’ into the socialist circles. Instead, to win the all-out and most important war against Fascism (which is, Orwell asserts, at the Gates), the Socialists need to forget class propaganda, accept that class prejudices will take longer to disappear (as elucidated in the previous section) and focus on the principles of ‘liberty’ and ‘justice’, which Orwell is sure will bring all the moral and intelligent people into Socialism. Only by asserting this moral core of Socialism, stripped of class propaganda, can the scales be tipped in favor of Socialism and away from Fascism. Now the humanistic picture of the depravations of the first section are resurrected in another light and Orwell presents both the class-proletariats as well as the ‘economic-proletariats’ (i.e, people like himself, born to a higher class but earning only the equal of an industrial worker), as more likely to tend towards fascism, if for no other reason but self-preservation. Socialism needs to bring these classes into its fold. That is the crying need of the day. "And then perhaps this misery of class-prejudice will fade away, and we of the sinking middle class … may sink without further struggles into the working class where we belong, and probably when we get there it will not be so dreadful as we feared, for, after all, we have nothing to lose but our aitches ('H's)." The Literary Lens / The 1984 Reappraisal The conclusions advocated by Orwell must seem too simplistic to modern ex-post readers, but there is another angle to be explored here that is not political in nature. This arises from the fact that this exposition was published before either 1984 or Animal Farm and after Brave New World. Orwell is quite clear that the Utopia (or Dystopia, or better, Utopia Caricatured) envisioned as the end goal of socialist progress in Brave New World is the very core of intelligent man’s revulsion towards Socialism - arising organically due to associations with ‘softness’ and degradation. Orwell needed to show the other extreme to turn this revulsion on its head. We often compare Brave New World and 1984 as if they were alternate predictions and give marks to Huxley for having predicted better. But this misses Orwell’s point. Orwell wanted to show the other extreme - the purely Fascist Dystopia - to bring around the people who were revolted by Brave New World and similar Utopian visions that were doing the rounds then (such as The Dream and Men Like Gods). Orwell calls these visions of the future that is based on mechanical progress as “the paradise of little fat men” which he admits was “aptly caricatured by Huxley in Brave New World”. You can also think of the caricature in the Wall-E movie for a better visualized reference. Orwell gives a grand argument, based on how the purpose of machines is to make human life easier and thus softer, to show how the Wall-E future is pretty much inevitable according to this conception of progress. He needed to present the antithesis to this vision - 1984. No matter how bad the caricature of the socialist progress, the Fascist one is surely the one to avoid. 1984 was the rubbing in of this idea, already set forth in 1937 with The Road to Wigan Pier, more than a decade before the fictional attack became unavoidable for Orwell. Thesis. Antithesis. Synthesis. 'Boom', said the Three Sisters. And, if we can claim that Orwell’s prophesy is today less imminent than Huxley’s, then Orwell wins The Battle of ‘Who Can Scare Them Most’. Well done, Orwell, you turned the course. Huxley, you needed to scare us more - we are headed there fast, still.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    Alright Georgie I get what you're saying, being poor in the 30s was really fucking awful. I loved the way you wrote about the industrialisation of the north of England and your views on a Socialism and the such but ugh why did you write this one so... unenjoyably? It felt like I was reading a 200-page Guardian column. I had to force myself through certain parts, not because they were boring or anything but because of the way you went about writing this thing. The content is A+ but the experience Alright Georgie I get what you're saying, being poor in the 30s was really fucking awful. I loved the way you wrote about the industrialisation of the north of England and your views on a Socialism and the such but ugh why did you write this one so... unenjoyably? It felt like I was reading a 200-page Guardian column. I had to force myself through certain parts, not because they were boring or anything but because of the way you went about writing this thing. The content is A+ but the experience of reading it gets you an F. Why didn't you write this like Down and Out? It's a pity Georgie. A pity.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “I am a degenerate modern semi-intellectual who would die if I did not get my early morning cup of tea and my New Statesman every Friday. Clearly I do not, in a sense, 'want' to return to a simpler, harder, probably agricultural way of life. In the same sense I don't 'want' to cut down on my drinking, to pay my debts, to take enough exercise, to be faithful to my wife, etc. etc. But in another and more permanent sense I do want these things, and perhaps in the same sense I want a civilization in “I am a degenerate modern semi-intellectual who would die if I did not get my early morning cup of tea and my New Statesman every Friday. Clearly I do not, in a sense, 'want' to return to a simpler, harder, probably agricultural way of life. In the same sense I don't 'want' to cut down on my drinking, to pay my debts, to take enough exercise, to be faithful to my wife, etc. etc. But in another and more permanent sense I do want these things, and perhaps in the same sense I want a civilization in which 'progress' is not definable as making the world safe for little fat men.” ― George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier This is one of those pieces of writing that cause my wife to shudder because I end up stalking her around our home quoting ad nausium paragraph after paragraph. Orwell is fantastically precient, clear, and direct. His writing hits you like a boulder to the head. This book proves it is just as dangerous to be 'theoretically' on the same side as Orwell as it is to be in direct opposition. He is not afraid to loose the scabs off of friend or foe, and will pick with relish at ALL hypocrisy, ALL lazy thinking, and ALL moral pretense. Probably the greatest tribute that can be dropped at the feet of Orwell are the acolytes he produced. One doesn't need to go too much further than Chris Hitchens or Andrew Sullivan to find writers whose style, attitude, and flourish were directly influenced by Orwell's anti-ecumenical, anti-fascist voice.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    I've recently read quite a few books by George Orwell (The Clergyman's Daughter, Coming Up For Air, Keep and The Aspidistra Flying), having previously read Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm and Homage to Catalonia, and am rapidly coming to the conclusion that he's one of my favourite writers. This was only the second time I've sampled his non-fiction. Before I discuss my thoughts on the book I want to mention how much I enjoy Orwell's writing style. In his essay Politics and the English Language I've recently read quite a few books by George Orwell (The Clergyman's Daughter, Coming Up For Air, Keep and The Aspidistra Flying), having previously read Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm and Homage to Catalonia, and am rapidly coming to the conclusion that he's one of my favourite writers. This was only the second time I've sampled his non-fiction. Before I discuss my thoughts on the book I want to mention how much I enjoy Orwell's writing style. In his essay Politics and the English Language (1946), Orwell wrote about the importance of precise and clear language, and provides six rules for writers: • Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. • Never use a long word where a short one will do. • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. • Never use the passive where you can use the active. • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous. These rules seem to me to inform his style that I perceive to be simple and powerful. Onto the book itself, in the first half of The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell catalogues the poverty he encounters in the north of England during the depression of the 1930s. In the second half, and written whilst Fascism is on the rise in Europe, he outlines his Socialist solution. Orwell appears to be unfailingly honest - both about what he encounters amongst the poor families of the north of England (his description of the Brookers' boarding house is powerful and evocative) and his own prejudices. A word on his prejudices, he refers to homosexuals as "pansies" and discusses the "cranks" that gravitate towards Socialism which include - in his words - fruit-juice drinkers, nudists, sandal wearers, sex maniacs, Quakers, nature-cure quacks, feminists and vegetarians. He is honest enough, elsewhere in the book, to acknowledge the difficulty anyone encounters trying to escape their social background - these prejudices suggest to me he was, in some respects, a very traditional person. I think this self awareness makes him more endearing and probably more clear-sighted whilst also jarring with me, as I fall into at least two of his crank categories. A lot of his thoughts and observations still resonated with me as a reader in 2012. Specifically his ideas on class prejudice and language. That said, I think he was also fairly naive when he wrote this book. His political education would continue in Spain, as documented in Homage to Catalonia, when he would fight a real war against Fascism, and where he encountered Russian propaganda and the rivalries between the various Republican factions. I would recommend reading the two books back-to-back. I preferred the first half of the book, with its clear eyed depictions of poverty, which is more interesting than his political musings in the second half. The second half is interesting, but his tendency to repeat himself, his personal prejudices and his political naivety, undermine this half of the book. That said, it's well worth reading for anyone interested in the era, or in Orwell's writing - I find both fascinating.

  5. 5 out of 5

    B0nnie

    The Road to Wigan Pier FAQs Back in the days when I hung out in that other dimension called usenet, I wrote several *FAQS* for alt.books.george-orwell (alas, now dead, a repository for villainous spam - RIP): Q & A with George Orwell: B: Will you tell us about the Brookers, the people with whom you stayed for a while in Wigan? O: Of course - mind if I smoke? - Mrs Brooker was too ill to do anything except eat stupendous meals, and Mr Brooker was a dark, small-boned, sour, Irish-looking man, and ast The Road to Wigan Pier FAQs Back in the days when I hung out in that other dimension called usenet, I wrote several *FAQS* for alt.books.george-orwell (alas, now dead, a repository for villainous spam - RIP): Q & A with George Orwell: B: Will you tell us about the Brookers, the people with whom you stayed for a while in Wigan? O: Of course - mind if I smoke? - Mrs Brooker was too ill to do anything except eat stupendous meals, and Mr Brooker was a dark, small-boned, sour, Irish-looking man, and astonishingly dirty. I don't think I ever once saw his hands clean. If he gave you a slice of bread-and-butter there was always a black thumb-print on it. At any hour of the day you were liable to meet Mr Brooker on the stairs, carrying a full chamber-pot which he gripped with his thumb well over the rim. The most dreadful thing about people like the Brookers is the way they say the same things over and over again. It gives you the feeling that they are not real people at all, but a kind of ghost. They kept a tripe shop -- flocculent stuff. They were the kind of people who run a business chiefly in order to have something to grumble about. The place was filthy: hanging from the ceiling there was a heavy glass chandelier on which the dust was so thick that it was like fur. Generally the crumbs from breakfast were still on the table at supper. I used to get to know individual crumbs by sight and watch their progress up and down the table from day to day. I never saw anyone brave the marmalade jar, which was an unspeakable mass of stickiness and dust. Last year's dead bluebottles were supine in the shop window (not good for trade!). B: Curious. How long do bugs stay in a house? O: Till. the. crack. of. doom. B: And, above all, what do you feel there is no need of? O: To have unemptied chamber-pots standing about in your living-room! B: Briefly then, can you tell us what it's like in a coal mine? O: The place is like hell. B: Could you please define 'hell'? O: Heat, noise, confusion, darkness, foul air, and, (also above all) unbearably cramped space. B: I've always wondered what coal is used for, besides finding it in my stocking on Christmas mornings. O: Let me list them for you: -For eating an ice -In crossing the Atlantic -When baking a loaf -In writing a novel -In all the arts of peace (if war breaks out it is needed all the more) -In times of revolution (and in times of reaction) -In order that Hitler may march the goose-step -That the Pope may denounce Bolshevism -That the cricket crowds may assemble at Lords -That the poets may scratch one another's backs B: And pray tell, who might owe the decency of their lives to those poor drudges who work underground? O: I'll tell you who: -you and I -the editor of the Times Lit. Supp. -the poets -the Archbishop of Canterbury -comrade X, author of Marxism for Infants B: All of us? O: Yes. B: If coal could not be produced without pregnant women dragging it to and fro, should we let them? O: I fancy we should let them do it rather than deprive ourselves of coal. B: When did you realise what splendid men miners are? O: It is only when you see miners down the mine and naked that you realise what splendid men they are. Most of them are small (big men are at a disadvantage in that job) but nearly all of them have the most noble bodies; wide shoulders tapering to slender supple waists, and small pronounced buttocks and sinewy thighs, with not an ounce of waste flesh anywhere. In the hotter mines they wear only a pair of thin drawers, clogs and knee-pads . . . B: 'The splendour of their bodies' comes to mind. O: Yes, very much. B: But, where are the monstrous men with chests like barrels and moustaches like the wings of eagles who strode across your child-hood's gaze twenty or thirty years ago? O: Buried, I suppose, in the Flanders mud. If the English physique has declined, this is no doubt partly due to the fact that the Great War carefully selected the million best men in England and slaughtered them, largely before they had had time to breed. B: That reminds me, did you ever habitually allow yourself to be dressed and undressed by a Burmese boy? O: Oh yes. B: And you...what were you like as a teen? O: When I was fourteen or fifteen I was an odious little snob. B: Lawrence says that because you have been to a public school you are a eunuch. O: Well, what about it? B: Umm, moving on, where was the silliest and worst delivered lecture you have ever heard or ever expect to hear? O: Actually it was in Sheffield - I was taken to a public hall to listen to a lecture by a clergyman. B: Did your feet carry you out, seemingly of their own accord, before it was half-way through?? O: Yes indeed, how did you know? B: Well, I've read your book. By the way, who is the master in a middle-class home? O: The woman, or the baby. B: Mr. Orwell, let's get to the big question. What is a human being? O: Odd question, but, primarily a bag for putting food into - the other functions and faculties may be more godlike, but in point of time they come afterwards. B: True. And who are the laziest people in Europe? O: The English! B: What sums up the normal English attitude towards the Latin races? O: Ha-ha - olives, vines, and vices. B: Besides always telling the truth, you are known for predicting the future. So, what will life be like in the 'Utopian future', in two hundred years from now? O: There won't be a coal fire in the grate, only some kind of invisible heater. The furniture will be made of rubber, glass, and steel. If there are still such things as evening papers there will certainly be no racing news in them, for gambling will be meaningless in a world where there is no poverty and the horse will have vanished from the face of the earth. Dogs, too, will have been suppressed on grounds of hygiene. And there won't be so many children, either, if the birth-controllers have their way. B: What is your view on hanging? O: I watched a man hanged once; it seemed to me worse than a thousand murders. I never went into a jail without feeling (most visitors to jails feel the same) that my place was on the other side of the bars. I thought then -- I think now, for that matter -- that the worst criminal who ever walked is morally superior to a hanging judge. B: Is it true that the middle-class person who is an ardent Socialist at twenty-five is a sniffish Conservative at thirty-five? O: One can observe on every side that dreary phenomenon. B: What sort of person is drawn to Socialism? O: One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words 'Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit- juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist, and feminist in England. B: Can bad breathe be a problem? O: You can have an affection for a murderer or a sodomite, but you cannot have an affection for a man whose breath stinks. B: What does the high standard of life we enjoy depend upon? O: Under the capitalist system, in order that [we]may live in comparative comfort, a hundred million Indians must live on the verge of starvation -- an evil state of affairs, but you acquiesce in it every time you step into a taxi or eat a plate of strawberries and cream. B: Do you have anything to say about the rage against the machine? O: The sensitive person's hostility to the machine is in one sense unrealistic, because of the obvious fact that the machine has come to stay. But as an attitude of mind there is a great deal to be said for it. The machine has got to be accepted, but it is probably better to accept it rather as one accepts a drug -- that is, grudgingly and suspiciously. Like a drug, the machine is useful, dangerous, and habit-forming. The oftener one surrenders to it the tighter its grip becomes. You have only to look about you at this moment to realise with what sinister speed the machine is getting us into its power. B: Yet aren't machine-made things cheaper? O: Look at the filthy chemical by-product that people will pour down their throats under the name of beer. Wherever you look you will see some slick machine-made article triumphing over the old-fashioned article that still tastes of something other than sawdust. And what applies to food applies also to furniture, houses, clothes, books, amusements, and everything else that makes up our environment. B: Yes, sometimes I hate this age. O: You may hate the machine-civilisation, probably you are right to hate it, but for the present there can be no question of accepting or rejecting it. B: Are you too affected by the machine? O: Give a Western man a job of work and he immediately begins devising a machine that would do it for him; give him a machine and he thinks of ways of improving it. I understand this tendency well enough, for in an ineffectual sort of way I have that type of mind myself. I have not either the patience or the mechanical skill to devise any machine that would work, but I am perpetually seeing, as it were, the ghosts of possible machines that might save me the trouble of using my brain or muscles. B: Ah the ghost in the machine. Wasn't it YOU, in fact, who invented the internet? O: This is a misconception. I do believe the rumour started because -- as you well know -- a search on google for "Orwell" + "modem" yields hundreds of results. Perhaps this will finally end (today?) and maybe the other rumours will end as well -- like the one about me and a certain "Lyons comer house". I could multiply examples by the score on this sort of thing. B: "Orwell" + "cat coke" is one of my favourites. Well, thank you sir, and R.I.P. O: At any rate, it's back to Sutton Courtenay. B.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    If there is one thing that I love about Orwell's non-fiction/journalism - especially when dealing with Britain of the 1930s - it is that he doesn't set out to be a sensationalist by picking out certain disastrous events, but rather uses his own personal observations and experiences to broaden the horizon here and write a far more comprehensive picture of life during The Great Depression in the north of England regarding coal mines, unemployment, housing conditions, capitalism etc..., and, even t If there is one thing that I love about Orwell's non-fiction/journalism - especially when dealing with Britain of the 1930s - it is that he doesn't set out to be a sensationalist by picking out certain disastrous events, but rather uses his own personal observations and experiences to broaden the horizon here and write a far more comprehensive picture of life during The Great Depression in the north of England regarding coal mines, unemployment, housing conditions, capitalism etc..., and, even though reading this now will likely shock and surprise more than it did then , he does so without the need for dramatics. If the first half of the book was easy to digest where Orwell sticks mostly to being descriptive and clear, then the rest of it is far more politcal and personal, controversial and challenging, in regards to his subject matter. Whether or not we agree with Orwell's vision of socialism, it's difficult not to at least admire his honesty and passion here. Yet another of his immersive and fascinating non-fiction books that was very much an eye-opener.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    This is a book of two halves. The second half from chapter eight onwards is autobiographical and explains how his life and experience led him to the experiences of the first half, as he says the road from Mandalay to Wigan is a long one and the reasons for taking it are not immediately clear (p.106), the suggestion is that this book is a prosaic response to Kipling's poem The Road to Mandalay., from empire to domestic politics, from Imperialism to Socialism. His approach to the latter and the pu This is a book of two halves. The second half from chapter eight onwards is autobiographical and explains how his life and experience led him to the experiences of the first half, as he says the road from Mandalay to Wigan is a long one and the reasons for taking it are not immediately clear (p.106), the suggestion is that this book is a prosaic response to Kipling's poem The Road to Mandalay., from empire to domestic politics, from Imperialism to Socialism. His approach to the latter and the purpose of his journey oddly brutal, the accountancy of human suffering. Before committing yourself to socialism, he says, you have to see suffering for yourself and decide if it is tolerable, which rather suggests that potentially a disinterested observer might add up the sum of human misery and conclude that it's not that bad and no reason to change direction politically. The key here I feel who Orwell is writing for. He was commissioned to write this book for the 'Left Book Club' of Seecker and Warburg which had been set up in 1936 with the intention of energising British left wing politics. Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier came out the following year in 1937. I was shocked by it for two reasons, the first the absolute basic points he is trying to make such as what I saw in her face was not the ignorant suffering of an animal (p17), Orwell feels it is necessary to tell his readers that working class women are human, he feels for his readership this is an arresting thought - the poor, the unemployed, the generally down trodden, can be regarded as sub-human. We might feel the micro-graduation of British class play a role here, Orwell describes himself as coming from the lower-upper-middle class, people who he explains have just enough money to enable them to feel snobby and superior. People of lower social class are physically repellent. They smell. And indeed now and then you can notice generally in Orwell's writing a peculiar horror of the unclean, the dirty, and of physical contact with other people who might not have been dipped in carbolic. The other unexpected shock here in the description of the effects of mass unemployment in the North -West of England in the 1930s is how this book might have been used to design much current social misery. What do we need to have to achieve human suffering- housing crisis, insecure employment, inadequate social insurance, oh, but don't forget tasty cheap foods that are grossly unhealthy and plenty of gambling. Plus ca change, plus c'est la même chose.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Much like Hemingway's lost satchel or Genet's samizdat manuscripts, I'll piece this together from jumbled memories. How's that for hubris? The Road To Wigan Pier was amongst the best books I've read this year. The route established by Orwell is more sinuous than expected. He examines a lodging house and then travels to the pits themselves. He finds valor in those who toil. He doesn't patronize. He ponders the unemployment issue in England. He busts myths. He unrolls lengths of statistics. He the Much like Hemingway's lost satchel or Genet's samizdat manuscripts, I'll piece this together from jumbled memories. How's that for hubris? The Road To Wigan Pier was amongst the best books I've read this year. The route established by Orwell is more sinuous than expected. He examines a lodging house and then travels to the pits themselves. He finds valor in those who toil. He doesn't patronize. He ponders the unemployment issue in England. He busts myths. He unrolls lengths of statistics. He then concludes his book by meandering back and forth between the theoretical and the autobiographical. It is easy to see how this spurned readers, both then and now. My reasons for reading this now were related on Hadrian's Wall (sorry I couldn't resist.) but Orwell's book did serve as a pleasurable counterpoint to my own holiday experiences.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tristessa

    In the first half of The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell catalogues his participant/observation of the economically deprived North of England focusing on squalor, pollution and hardship during the Depression. Wigan Pier is a dystopic bleak vision of degrading capitalism - without his study, 1984 would not have existed. As political polemic in the second half, he provides the solution; Socialism. Orwell, fully aware of his own upper middle class prejudices, set to challenge his own feelings of disgust In the first half of The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell catalogues his participant/observation of the economically deprived North of England focusing on squalor, pollution and hardship during the Depression. Wigan Pier is a dystopic bleak vision of degrading capitalism - without his study, 1984 would not have existed. As political polemic in the second half, he provides the solution; Socialism. Orwell, fully aware of his own upper middle class prejudices, set to challenge his own feelings of disgust for the working classes; he was educated to believe that they 'smell'. His description of the Brookers' boarding house is a wonderfully Dickensian gothic and grotesque description of squalor and disappointed lives illustrating that dirt and disgust is what stands in the way of socialism's triumph. I was tickled by Orwell's greater repulsion for the bearded fruit-juice drinking middle class socialist crank who wants to 'level the working class 'up' (up to his own standard) by means of hygiene...birth-control, poetry' In essence, Wigan Pier is a confession of Orwell's own failings; he knows he cannot resolve the class problem by being friends with the working classes; he is an outsider. Orwell is also seeringly honest about his own feelings of masculine inferiority regarding his repulsion/attraction for the 'superhuman' miners. I admire Wigan Pier because I recognise my own hypocrisies in the way Orwell tries to abolish that part of himself he came to abhor as being an instrument of the British Empire in India. We are all guilty of class prejudice.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cphe

    Set in two distinctive parts I found the first to be the most interesting. Orwell painted a bleak picture of conditions for miners in the north of England. The working class didn't have it easy by any means. Dangerous working conditions, poor pay and even lesser prospects.......and then there were the slums. Visual and descriptive writing. Also enjoyed what Orwell had to say about some of his fellow authors and his take on world affairs. Interesting and informative. Set in two distinctive parts I found the first to be the most interesting. Orwell painted a bleak picture of conditions for miners in the north of England. The working class didn't have it easy by any means. Dangerous working conditions, poor pay and even lesser prospects.......and then there were the slums. Visual and descriptive writing. Also enjoyed what Orwell had to say about some of his fellow authors and his take on world affairs. Interesting and informative.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Owlseyes

    "You and I and the editor of the Times Lit. Supp., and the poets and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Comrade X, author of Marxism for Infants–all of us really owe the comparative decency of our lives to poor drudges underground, blackened to the eyes, with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward with arms and belly muscles of steel." "Every miner has blue scars on his nose and forehead, and will carry them to his death". "All the people I saw in these places, especi "You and I and the editor of the Times Lit. Supp., and the poets and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Comrade X, author of Marxism for Infants–all of us really owe the comparative decency of our lives to poor drudges underground, blackened to the eyes, with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward with arms and belly muscles of steel." "Every miner has blue scars on his nose and forehead, and will carry them to his death". "All the people I saw in these places, especially the children, were unspeakably dirty, and I do not doubt that they were lousy as well." "I first became aware of the unemployment problem in 1928. At that time I had just come back from Burma, where unemployment was only a word, and I had gone to Burma when I was still a boy and the post-war boom was not quite over." "I do not believe that there is anything inherently and unavoidably ugly about industrialism." "This nonsense about the superior energy of the English (actually the laziest people in Europe) has been current for at least a hundred years." "Indeed the Lancashire and Yorkshire miners treated me with a kindness and courtesy that were even embarrassing; for if there is one type of man to whom I do feel myself inferior, it is a coal-miner." "Meanwhile, do the ’lower classes’ smell? Of course, as a whole, they are dirtier than the upper classes." "A middle-class person embraces Socialism and perhaps even joins the Communist Party....I have known numbers of bourgeois Socialists, I have listened by the hour to their tirades against their own class, and yet never, not even once, have I met one who had picked up proletarian table-manners." "The Chinese, I believe, say that a white man smells like a corpse. The Burmese say the same (though no Burman was ever rude enough to say so to me.)" "At this moment Socialists almost everywhere are in retreat before the onslaught of Fascism, and events are moving at terrible speed." THIS IS COMPLETELY SEARING. Before you adhere to what's fashionable in politics, whatever the school or political/economic theory, this book should be your first read. The first part of the book is an accurate observation/description of the conditions of work of coal miners. The second part is a matured reflection on socialism and other political views, interspersed by Orwell's own experiences in the East (mainly in India and Burma). He knew what he was talking about. https://www.theguardian.com/books/201... (view spoiler)[ How much for taxes????? (hide spoiler)]

  12. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    The squalid living and working conditions of 1930s Northern miners. A tract on socialism. Classic Georgie.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    The best. Profoundly important work. Timeless relevance. Orwell's instilled personal middle class prejudices seemingly unconsciously expressed amid his objective insightful observations on the different class prejudices, as well as politics, work, hygiene, food nutrition, etc. are intriguing but don't diminish the relevance or value of this work. To read again. The best. Profoundly important work. Timeless relevance. Orwell's instilled personal middle class prejudices seemingly unconsciously expressed amid his objective insightful observations on the different class prejudices, as well as politics, work, hygiene, food nutrition, etc. are intriguing but don't diminish the relevance or value of this work. To read again.

  14. 5 out of 5

    George

    An interesting, thought provoking non fiction book of two parts. The first part details the living and working conditions of coal miners in England. The second part is a well reasoned essay on ‘socialism’ and the practical issues as to why the working class have not fully embraced ‘socialism’ as a political ideology to improve their working and living conditions. Orwell goes into the underground coal mines to obtain first hand knowledge of the working conditions. He reports that the coal miner’s An interesting, thought provoking non fiction book of two parts. The first part details the living and working conditions of coal miners in England. The second part is a well reasoned essay on ‘socialism’ and the practical issues as to why the working class have not fully embraced ‘socialism’ as a political ideology to improve their working and living conditions. Orwell goes into the underground coal mines to obtain first hand knowledge of the working conditions. He reports that the coal miner’s work begins when the coal miner is at the coal face and that the journey to where the coal miner’s work actually begins can take up to one and a half hours from the time that the coal miners leaves his place of abode to the time he arrives at the coal face. The journey includes walking along a tunnel bent over for hundreds of feet. He reports on how difficult it is for the coal miner to wash and clean himself at the end of every shift. Orwell lives with coal miners in boarding houses and reports the poor living conditions. Accommodation is very cramped, food is not very nutritious and the lavatory can be over 70 yards away and in many instances, one lavatory services over 30 people and line ups are not unusual! There are lots of interesting, thought provoking sentences, for example: ‘One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.’ ‘..I think it could be plausibly argued that changes of diet are more important than changes of dynasty or even of religion...Yet it is curious how seldom the all-importance of food is recognised. You see statues everywhere to politicians, poets, bishops, but none to cooks or bacon curlers or market gardeners.’

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I always wondered why the British soldiers in WWI photos always seemed to be in such good humor. Now I know...the conditions for the working man were so horrendous back on the island that even the mud of Flanders must have seemed an improvement. Orwell takes the first part - let's say the first half - of this book to inform the reader of the bleak existence of the working poor in England. The reason for this is that he is setting the stage for the second part, in which he extols the virtues of s I always wondered why the British soldiers in WWI photos always seemed to be in such good humor. Now I know...the conditions for the working man were so horrendous back on the island that even the mud of Flanders must have seemed an improvement. Orwell takes the first part - let's say the first half - of this book to inform the reader of the bleak existence of the working poor in England. The reason for this is that he is setting the stage for the second part, in which he extols the virtues of socialism as being the cure for these ills. Our man George doesn't make a very strong case. His points are not supported by hard data, and he detracts from the importance of his point by casting aspersions on people he takes issue with, such as "sandal-wearers" and feminists. He would have been better off to stick to the point. He had identified a real problem, and presented a solution that he wasn't quite sure how to bring about. He even goes as far as to admit that the more intelligent people seemed to be on the opposing side of the issue. I think he was right, at least on this point. Orwell didn't just talk socialism. He would fight for his beliefs in the Spanish Civil War, thereby making himself one of the few writers with political opinions to actually put his nuts on the line for the cause. An interesting read, but a little too caustic and mean-spirited for my liking.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Fascinating and still relevant. The narration seemed wrong at first, but I think was perfect. This book is a bizarre mix of raw statistics, moving stories, humorous opinions, and clever political strategies.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Orwell was commissioned to write this book by his publisher Victor Gollancz, a campaigner for left-wing causes and the founder of the Left Book Club. It comprises two journeys. The first finds Orwell in investigative journalist mode, as he embarks on a physical journey amongst industrial workers in the economically depressed north of England, investigating and describing the causes and symptoms of poverty. The second is a journey of the mind, which takes the form of a long essay in which Orwell Orwell was commissioned to write this book by his publisher Victor Gollancz, a campaigner for left-wing causes and the founder of the Left Book Club. It comprises two journeys. The first finds Orwell in investigative journalist mode, as he embarks on a physical journey amongst industrial workers in the economically depressed north of England, investigating and describing the causes and symptoms of poverty. The second is a journey of the mind, which takes the form of a long essay in which Orwell explores his own middleclass background, English attitudes to social class, the development of political consciousness and the reasons behind the average English person’s resistance to socialism. The careful way in which Orwell engaged on the task he set himself in the first half of the work shows him at his analytical best. He details aspects of life amongst the poor, starting with a vivid description of a lodging house before moving on to describe the working and social conditions of coal miners and housing, unemployment, food and the cityscapes of the north. It’s a documentary in book form: detailed, insightful and compassionate. The second half of the book is more controversial. Struck by the sheer awfulness of what he had seen on his journey, Orwell analysed the reasons for popular resistance to socialism, which he saw as the solution to the poverty and unemployment. Here Orwell is honest about the prejudices ingrained in him by his “lower upper middle class” upbringing. However, his analysis of the objections to socialism felt by ordinary people was designed to offend middle class socialists who constituted much of the readership of the Left Book Club. The problems with socialism Orwell identified now appear very dated. Even at the time it’s likely that they were more an expression of Orwell’s eccentricity than the result of any real research amongst those Orwell believed were opposed to socialism. However, Orwell’s prose is crystalline and it rings with passion and wit. The quality of the writing and the insight it provides into Orwell’s upbringing, his attitudes, his motivation and the development of his political consciousness (which went on to be developed much more dramatically during the Spanish Civil War) makes this work worth reading.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    This is a great book, it’s a non-fiction about the industrial heartlands of the north of England in the 1930s, focusing particularly on the working class, the coal miners in particular. George Orwell spent a lot of time living amongst the people and observing the standard of living. It was just fascinating and made me realise that some things truly never change. Orwell’s comments on the housing crisis, the prevalence of alcoholism, gambling, and unhealthy food, and how welfare was influencing ho This is a great book, it’s a non-fiction about the industrial heartlands of the north of England in the 1930s, focusing particularly on the working class, the coal miners in particular. George Orwell spent a lot of time living amongst the people and observing the standard of living. It was just fascinating and made me realise that some things truly never change. Orwell’s comments on the housing crisis, the prevalence of alcoholism, gambling, and unhealthy food, and how welfare was influencing how the poorest in society lived their lives. I found it chilling how Orwell describes the revulsion the middle classes of the time felt towards the working class, and how ironic it was they loathed the very people they claimed to be championing through socialism and were out of touch even then! I mean seriously, nothing has changed. This is a fascinating read, I would highly recommend. Im sure George Orwell is spinning in his grave at these strange lives we lead in this country now.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Smiley

    I'm rereading this wonderful, bitter narration of the poor in Wigan Pier in England eleven years before I was born (first published in 1937) briefly today. It's the sad aftermath for me to review this almost dry, damp copy due to the unexpected deluge that leaked into our Language Center on the ground floor after the heavy, steady rainfalls in the evening last Thursday (September 8). Therefore, on Friday our staff, officials and students helped us move stacks of books, course sheets, academic dr I'm rereading this wonderful, bitter narration of the poor in Wigan Pier in England eleven years before I was born (first published in 1937) briefly today. It's the sad aftermath for me to review this almost dry, damp copy due to the unexpected deluge that leaked into our Language Center on the ground floor after the heavy, steady rainfalls in the evening last Thursday (September 8). Therefore, on Friday our staff, officials and students helped us move stacks of books, course sheets, academic drafts, students' reports, etc. outside in the sun and clean the muddy floor. A few days later, I found that some 10+ books of mine were wet and damp, it's my grief to see them suffer like that. I'm sure I won't throw them away, rather I'd reread and show them to my students/colleagues why I still read them. So this is my sad review of this book I read some years ago by quoting some underlined parts with my personal views. Between pages 80-81, there are some 18 black-and-white photos depicting the plight of those who lived and worked then. It's a bit horrible but understandable why the people and the families lived like that. I think you'd love his descriptive elaboration, analysis and reflection. 1. Introduction. Gollancz can accept a lot in Orwell's description of working-class life; yet, for example, he tut-tuts nervously when Orwell says that working-class people are believed by middle-class people to smell, which indeed, they did. (p. vi) My note: In fact, everyone alive smells. Prejudice? 2. It is happening all over England at this moment, thanks to the Means Test. (p. 73) My note: polite sarcasm. 3. George Orwell uses 'in work' not 'at work'. (pp. 73, 108) 4. Chapter 4, Part II. Excellent description on teachers' lives concerning understanding and insight on the matter (he himself was a teacher for a year or two). 5. He sometime uses the phrase, 'dash it' (p. 153), as a mild curse.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Pink

    This was definitely a book of two halves. The first section was reminiscent of Down and Out in Paris and London, although not as interesting. The second half was very representative of Orwell's essays, of which I've read most. So, where does that leave me feeling about this book? I didn't like it so much. I felt like I'd read most of it before and so that lessoned my enjoyment. I didn't learn anything knew here, but I still appreciated what Orwell had to say and think it's a worthwhile read if y This was definitely a book of two halves. The first section was reminiscent of Down and Out in Paris and London, although not as interesting. The second half was very representative of Orwell's essays, of which I've read most. So, where does that leave me feeling about this book? I didn't like it so much. I felt like I'd read most of it before and so that lessoned my enjoyment. I didn't learn anything knew here, but I still appreciated what Orwell had to say and think it's a worthwhile read if you've only tried his fiction.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    I read this in the 80s and it has stayed with me since. I'd had no idea about the conditions the miners in particular worked in in the 1930s and it left me feeling very humbled and quite outraged. I read this in the 80s and it has stayed with me since. I'd had no idea about the conditions the miners in particular worked in in the 1930s and it left me feeling very humbled and quite outraged.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Toria

    I got conflicting feelings about this. On one hand George Orwell writes very good and informative about the living conditions and his views on socialism. I learned a lot I didn't know but geez it was boring/tedious to read. It feelt like I was back in school listening to a teacher that while was talking about interesting stuff, wasn't a very good at making it enjoyable to listen to. I enjoy George Orwell novels so much more because while it was bleak and serious the reading experience was top kn I got conflicting feelings about this. On one hand George Orwell writes very good and informative about the living conditions and his views on socialism. I learned a lot I didn't know but geez it was boring/tedious to read. It feelt like I was back in school listening to a teacher that while was talking about interesting stuff, wasn't a very good at making it enjoyable to listen to. I enjoy George Orwell novels so much more because while it was bleak and serious the reading experience was top knoch

  23. 4 out of 5

    Josh Caporale

    3.5 stars I have previously read three of Orwell's books: Animal Farm, 1984, and Keep the Aspidistra Flying. I read this book based on the recommendation of Larry from the show in order to prepare for a discussion about this book for the show, thus I made it through my fourth book by Orwell and I will say that this was among the more challenging of reads. This book is a nonfictional account that harps on Orwell's political philosophies regarding his support for Socialism. By Socialism, he means a 3.5 stars I have previously read three of Orwell's books: Animal Farm, 1984, and Keep the Aspidistra Flying. I read this book based on the recommendation of Larry from the show in order to prepare for a discussion about this book for the show, thus I made it through my fourth book by Orwell and I will say that this was among the more challenging of reads. This book is a nonfictional account that harps on Orwell's political philosophies regarding his support for Socialism. By Socialism, he means a party that is for the people, for getting them employed, and against tyranny, as opposed to the several stereotypes that people develop on the subject. Orwell begins by talking about the working conditions of both the employed and the unemployed, after being asked to look at the conditions of unemployment in Great Britain. Looking at the lives of the employed was completely Orwell's choice and he did so by examining the lives of coal miners and their working conditions. What he came across was a work environment and a lifestyle that both he and us the reader could not imagine living and he even points out this sense of disconnect. He spends the remainder of the book talking about his philosophies, examining why people are hesitant to explore and embrace Socialism, and his argument as to why we should all be Socialists. The subject material that was presented was very intriguing and striking like a piece of Stilton cheese. There is definitely descriptions of the coal mining work conditions and the examples in which Orwell shared that are going to stay with me for an extended period of time. I also felt that I got a great sense of British politics and how the United States is going through a similar period of time where they are examining whether or not Socialism could be beneficial to its people and the nation as a whole. Where I was caught up was in the density of some of the material and how one can easily get caught up within the dated information. I feel that readers with a sense of the British monetary system will have a great advantage, for there are details that other readers would need to explore outside of the book before they approach it. While this material gave me plenty to think about, I cannot say that it has changed any points of view of mine. I would say that I would benefit from rereading this text and specifically the parts that I feel would develop a greater understanding to what Orwell argues is Socialism in its ideal state. He does point out the aspects of human nature, but not to the point where it exploits somewhat of a flaw within the system. You can find the Literary Gladiators discussion about this book (containing spoilers) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P70zS...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anima

    “The tonnage of coal raised yearly per person employed in mining rises steadily though rather slowly. In 19 14 every mine-worker produced, on an average, 253 tons of coal; in 1934 he produced 280 tons.' This of course is an average figure for mine-workers of all kinds; those actually working at the coal face extract an enormously greater amount—in many cases, probably, well over a thousand tons each. But taking 280 tons as a representative figure, it is worth noticing what a vast achievement thi “The tonnage of coal raised yearly per person employed in mining rises steadily though rather slowly. In 19 14 every mine-worker produced, on an average, 253 tons of coal; in 1934 he produced 280 tons.' This of course is an average figure for mine-workers of all kinds; those actually working at the coal face extract an enormously greater amount—in many cases, probably, well over a thousand tons each. But taking 280 tons as a representative figure, it is worth noticing what a vast achievement this is. One gets the best idea of it by comparing a miner's life work with somebody else's. If I live to be sixty I shall probably have produced thirty novels, or enough to fill two medium-sized library shelves. In the same period the average miner produces 8,400 tons of coal; enough coal to pave Trafalgar Square nearly two feet deep or to supply seven large families with fuel for over a hundred years. “ “As you walk through the industrial towns you lose yourself in labyrinths of little brick houses blackened by smoke, festering in planless chaos round miry alleys and little cindered yards where there are stinking dust- bins and lines of grimy washing and half-ruinous w.c's. The interiors of these houses are always very much the same, though the number of rooms varies between two and five. All have an almost exactly similar living- room, ten or fifteen feet square, with an open kitchen range; in the larger ones there is a scullery as well,inthe smaller ones the sink and copper are in the living-room. At the back there is the yard, or part of a yard shared by a number of houses, just big enough for the dustbin and the w.c. Not a single one has hot water laid on. You might walk, I suppose, through literally hundreds of miles of streets inhabited by miners, every one of whom, when he is in work, gets black from head to foot every day, without ever passing a house in which one could have a bath. It would have been very simple to install a hot-water system working from the kitchen range, but the builder saved perhaps ten pounds on each house by not doing so, and at the time when these houses were built no one imagined that miners wanted baths.”

  25. 5 out of 5

    Priya

    I read this as a budding social revolutionary (!) in my days of high school rebellion so have fond memories of the author/book and find it difficult to slag him/it off. That being said, I like Orwell's journalistic accounts (like this one and Burmese Days), I like his writing style as the crisp prose of a journalist shines through and I like his commitment to showing how, even in a fairly well-off society like Britain, there have always been people who are forgotten about. It's not all about the I read this as a budding social revolutionary (!) in my days of high school rebellion so have fond memories of the author/book and find it difficult to slag him/it off. That being said, I like Orwell's journalistic accounts (like this one and Burmese Days), I like his writing style as the crisp prose of a journalist shines through and I like his commitment to showing how, even in a fairly well-off society like Britain, there have always been people who are forgotten about. It's not all about the "help! help! I'm being oppressed" narrative of state repression but about regular people living their lives in situations of dire poverty and unemployment. As a glimpse into the time and context (pre-WWII Britain), The Road to Wigan Pier is beautifully-depicted. To end on a (Orwellian) activist note, it's sad how not much has changed in the 70 years or so since this book was first published. Definitely not a "Saturday afternoon-on-the-porch" (see my review of Excession for explanation) read. This is a "Friday evening-plotting the overthrow of society" read. Or, "a kick up the arse for being too complacent" read :)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Buckley

    One of the best pieces of reportage I have encountered. Orwell discovers the English working class and, with kindness but without sentimentality, he describes what he sees.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Informative and thought-provoking with loads to digest.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    As with 'Down and Out in Paris and London', this book is a strange mix of incredibly timely observations about inequality and class paired with outmoded language and troubling social views. There is no doubt that Orwell, like the vast majority of his contemporaries, was homophobic. Similarly Orwell's discussion of racial difference, even when trying to make the point that viewing whites as superior is ridiculous, is objectifying and cringe-worthy. Still, when it comes to class, Orwell's views ar As with 'Down and Out in Paris and London', this book is a strange mix of incredibly timely observations about inequality and class paired with outmoded language and troubling social views. There is no doubt that Orwell, like the vast majority of his contemporaries, was homophobic. Similarly Orwell's discussion of racial difference, even when trying to make the point that viewing whites as superior is ridiculous, is objectifying and cringe-worthy. Still, when it comes to class, Orwell's views are more easily transplanted to the modern discourse. As a middle-class white guy (or at least so white-passing that my Egyptian heritage is irrelevant in my day to day interactions with the world) Orwell's discussion of performative, trendy left-wing activism was quite thought-provoking. He discusses how members of the middle class often talk the talk but do not walk the walk when it comes to fighting for a fairer society and making real sacrifices towards this goal or changing their lifestyles in any significant way. This is a good quote on the subject: “The fact that has got to be faced is that to abolish class-distinctions means abolishing a part of yourself. Here am I, a typical member of the middle class. It is easy for me to say that I want to get rid of class-distinctions, but nearly everything I think and do is a result of class-distinctions. All my notions — notions of good and evil, of pleasant and unpleasant, of funny and serious, of ugly and beautiful — are essentially middle-class notions; my taste in books and food and clothes, my sense of honour, my table manners, my turns of speech, my accent, even the characteristic movements of my body, are the products of a special kind of upbringing and a special niche about half-way up the social hierarchy.” Some of Orwell's criticisms of those to be found on the left are less insightful or objective. He seems to have particular disdain for the type of left-winger he refers to as a 'fruit-juice drinker'. As far as I can tell this is his term for those who could be seen as a proto-hippy types as he also refers to them as a bearded vegetarians and teetotalers. I much prefer the term fruit-juice drinker to it's modern equivalent, soy boy/cuck. The first half of this book relates to the particular circumstances experienced by miners in Wigan. The latter half focuses more on Orwell's personal views on class which border on the neurotic. He was clearly deeply concerned about class signifiers and his own role as a 'gentleman' and what it means to be a middle class person or a working class person and the pros and cons of each. I didn't find his hand-wringing about these issues as compelling as his more first-hand account of class and poverty in Down and Out in Paris and London. He gets a bit repetitive and abstract, speaking in hypotheticals and generalizations without anything in firsthand accounts. The Road to Wigan Pier does put the events of Down and Out in a strange new perspective however. In Down and Out, Orwell does not account for how he found himself next to penniless in France. It's revealed in the Road to Wigan Pier that Orwell CHOSE to take up the life of a 'vagabond' on purpose. He did not fall on hard times but rather chose to enter this world as a kind of social experiment. To be fair, he seems to have been willing to genuinely suffer as a result but it seems like such a stunt now. Like a posh Vice reporter slumming it to impress his friends from college with a gritty article. I don't know how much a posh man like Orwell can ever really experience this level of poverty knowing he has the social ties and social capital to get himself out of it should really need to. Road to Wigan Pier is worthwhile for its account of miners in the North. The more abstract proselytizing about why Orwell's brand of socialism is the correct one and how those on the left whose socially progressive ideas he does not share are degenerates and phonies is less worthwhile. Having read two Orwell books now my view of him is that he's kind of asshole but one whose convictions are sincere.

  29. 4 out of 5

    G.R. Hewitt

    This was an interesting and insightful read and though it was written some eighty years ago it is remarkably current, timeless in many ways. There is much to stop and ponder over; for example: Here you come upon the important fact that every revolutionary opinion draws part of its strength from a secret conviction that nothing can be changed. Orwell pulled some things into all-too-sharp a focus for some tastes back then, which are just as challenging and eye-averting today in our so-called 'i This was an interesting and insightful read and though it was written some eighty years ago it is remarkably current, timeless in many ways. There is much to stop and ponder over; for example: Here you come upon the important fact that every revolutionary opinion draws part of its strength from a secret conviction that nothing can be changed. Orwell pulled some things into all-too-sharp a focus for some tastes back then, which are just as challenging and eye-averting today in our so-called 'inclusive-all embracing-anything-goes' society. This book is well written and Orwell's descriptions and turns of phrase do not disappoint; one (amongst others) that amused me was: Generally the crumbs from breakfast were still on the table at supper. I used to get to know individual crumbs by sight and watch their progress up and down the table from day to day. Such observations seemed to add a certain surrealness to the work that I liked and did not detract from the serious nature of the book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    LindaH

    Reading The Road to Wigan Pier got me roused up about a lot of things. First among them is to read more George Orwell. His writing is analytical, compassionate, clear, witty, honest, everything I love about great nonfiction. His description of coal miners's lives is exemplary journalism by today's standards, and this is commissioned work he did when he was only in his 20s. At the halfway point in the book, Orwell turns to the subject of socialism. He looks at it from all different perspectives, Reading The Road to Wigan Pier got me roused up about a lot of things. First among them is to read more George Orwell. His writing is analytical, compassionate, clear, witty, honest, everything I love about great nonfiction. His description of coal miners's lives is exemplary journalism by today's standards, and this is commissioned work he did when he was only in his 20s. At the halfway point in the book, Orwell turns to the subject of socialism. He looks at it from all different perspectives, including why the middle class rejects it and why class prejudice cuts all ways, to the undermining of socialism. I like that he is moderate in his views; he never endorses extremism, although, of course, he is focused on the need to provide decent living conditions for poor working class families. He is for "freedom and justice", and opposed to the growing fascism of his time (1936). So much of what he says rings true today.

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