The Road to Wigan Pier

The Road to Wigan PierThe squalid living and working conditions of 1930s Northern miners A tract on socialism Classic Georgie. 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 endearing and probably 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 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. 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. 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 RIPQ 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 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 youwhat 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 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. 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 aswhat 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 m me chose. 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 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 menGeorge 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. George Orwell pek hakim oldu um bir yazar de il, daha nce birka kitab n okuma f rsat bulmu tum Bu kitab da bir g revden kaynakl okudum Genel olarak inceleme kitaplar na e er ki sanatla ilintili de ilse pek yana mam zira olduk a zorlan r m Wigan skelesi Yolu nda da ayn ey oldu, cidden ok zorland m.Kitab n ba lamas yla birlikte ne denli b y k bir yazar n elinden kt n hemen kavr yorsunuz Orwell in bir eyler anlatma konusundaki yetene i, bu eserine de yans m lk 100 sayfay b y k bir ilgiyle okudum Emile Zola n n Germinal inden sonra a inal k kazand m madencili e kar daha bilimsel bilgiler edinme ans na eri tim Kitab n tamam n okuduktan sonra da en etkileyici k s m n hala bu b l m oldu unu d n yorum Madencilik d nyan n en zor mesle i olarak g sterilmekte, san r m ikinci s rada da gemicilik varm Orwell, gemicilikte de i i l mlerinin ok st nicellerde gezindi ini s yl yor Madencilikten sonra ikinci s radaym Elbette o d nemde G n m zde gemicili in madencili e g re ok daha ilerledi ini ve i ilerini g vence alt na ald n tahmin edebiliyorum Neyse, bu d nyan n en zor mesle i madencilik ile daha nce Germinal ve O ullar ve Sevgilileri n de kar la m t m Ancak burada bilimsel bir ekilde, istatiklerle olaya yakla ma f rsat buluyorsunuz Bu da ac mas z tablonun iyice g zler n ne serilmesini sa l yor Ne yaz k ki insan n, insanl ktan kt korkun bir meslek kolu madencilik D nyan n her ark nda nemli bir kolu d nd ren k m r uanda da yerini petrol dolduruyor elde etmek ad na nelerin heba edildi ini t m a kl ile idrak edebiliyorsunuz.Bu idrak elbette sanayi devrimi sonras y kselen kapitalist ekonominin, olu turdu u makinesinin kalbine inmeyi sa l yor Ayn Rand n Atlas Vazge ti si ne denli g zelleme yap labilecek noktalar n zerinde seyrediyorsa, Wigan skelesi Yolu o denli ta lamas yap labilecek eylerin zerinde duruyor Kapitalizmin kendinden getirdi i s n f farklar ve alt kesimin ac mas z bir hayat tarz i inde tutulmas , insan k fredecek bir sinirin i ine sokuyor Kitab n bir yerinde sosyalist anlay a inanmadan nce mevcut d zeni g r p incelemek istedi ini s yl yor Orwell ok sa lamac ve sa lam bir yakla m Birinci b l mde o unluklu olarak g zlemlerini aktaran yazar, ikinci b l mde biraz daha otobiyografik geler ta yan bir incelemeye imza at yor ve d nceleri ile hayat zerinden g r leri, fikirleri masaya yat r yor nsan haklar , i i haklar , al ma ko ullar konusunda bir hayli yol kat etti ini bildi imiz Avrupa n n bundan altm yetmi sene nce ne bokum bir yer oldu unu da ayr ca anl yoruz ngiltere ku kusuz d nya tarihinin en haysiyetsiz tarihlerinden birine sahip olan lkelerin ba nda gelir Yaln z s m rgecilik konusunda zalimlik bayra n g klere dikmedi ini g steren bir metin oluyor bu kitap ayn zamanda kendi lkesinin i erisinde geli en, kapitalist canavar n doyurulmas i in geli en kanserli dokular da ok g zel bir ekilde g zler n ne seriyor.7 10 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 The Road to Wigan Pier is a book in two parts, both observant and fiery This is one of Orwell s lesser known works, but still one of his better ones It surpasses Burmese Days and might almost reach Homage to Catalonia.The first part is a visit to the coal mining areas up north, and a chronicling of the miners lives It s reminiscent of Engels Conditions of the English Working Class, but with less statistics and coal mining, and the social conditions of the miners themselves Here, he has an astonishing eye for detail He crawls into the mines you can crawl or kneel most of the way Breathes in the black corrosive dust which the workers never seem to get off of their hands Sits down at their table Talks to them Orwell, who confesses that his life was full of easy comfort, recognizes a real empathy with these people beyond class He could not imagine living and working as hard as they do.This little journey of his shatters myths It s only too familiar to learn that even in the early 20th century, the old canards about the poor were still there the belief that the poor were all lazy, and would get drunk and do nothing forever if unemployed When Orwell interviewed those without work, the vast majority were desperate for it All this in spite of the horrific labor conditions They wanted to be able feed their families better than what stipend or charity provides and to end the gnawing boredom and feelings of uselessness Oh, God, please, let me work one begs.Orwell even notes a trend where those who have less money to spend on food tend to spend it on unhealthy food an interesting precursor to the trend between obesity and income in the United States today Only the rich can afford to eat healthy.No doubt mining is different here so we d like to think in the United States, with empty promises of clean coal But there are still consequences here For an example, see West Virginia, all of it Economic dependence, decline, depressed standards of living, political entanglement with King Coal Accidents still do happen And if not that, then the wasting death of black lung, which has made a recurrence Then we remember that the Chinese produce the most coal in the world today, and they do not have nearly as many bothersome safety or environmental regulations The second part is even fiery It is an examination of the political means what is to be done First, he states that these living conditions are intolerable Second, he acknowledges that socialist policies would be an effective means of affecting this economic problem So his Big Question is why, then, is not everybody a socialist Already, in 1936, he notes that something is wrong with the state of Socialism There is, of course, the matter of Stalin s empire in the east, and the unsettling rumors which arise from its gaping maw Socialism, instead of the charitable ideal of reducing exploitation here and abroad, and raising the standards of living, has been mutated into yet another excuse for tyranny.Not just this He also lances the ugly boils which marred socialism then and now Endless petty factionalism, boring terminology, a religious adherence to major thinkers Marx , and so forth These would create disunity within socialists, and scare away any new converts Thus they are easy prey for political enemies.Orwell also has to combat ideas of what socialism is not He has to argue with the useful idiots who praise Stalin George Bernard Shaw, Upton Sinclair, H G Wells Their visions were of a machine socialism, were technology somehow makes everything better without any major societal change Technology, as good as it can be, has a cost If the rich can afford to live in comfort, then the disparity between them and poor would only worsen Technology has to be cheap and public in order for any real change to disseminate Orwell sees their visions as useless A paradise of fat little men reduced to hedonistic consumerist pleasure They resemble the infantile dreams of Ray Kurzweil, who starts off with explanations of doubling computer power, and ends with humanity becoming godlike immortal computer beings, a deranged version of that already dangerous dogma of Rapture.Orwell does take a moment here to praise Aldous Huxley and his Brave New World, which describes this paradise No doubt it would influence his 1984.It is not just the future of socialism which concerns him, however Fascism continued its bloody march in Europe At the time he wrote this, the Civil War in Spain broke out Socialist v Anarchist v Fascist.The events of this book gave him a firm conviction that he needed to do something This led to his volunteering to fight in a Socialist militia in the Spanish Civil War, and the experiences in that war would lead to a new book, Homage to Catalonia The nature of totalitarian regimes deeply frightened and scared him, and the rest is history.An excellent book, perhaps one of Orwell s best. 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

Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.In addition to his literary career Orwell served as a police officer with the Indian Imperial

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  • Paperback
  • 215 pages
  • The Road to Wigan Pier
  • George Orwell
  • English
  • 23 May 2017
  • 9780141185293

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