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The Road to Wigan Pier Paperback – October 18, 1972
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After his success with Down and Out in Paris and London, Orwell got commissioned by the influential Left Book Club (Victor Gollancz one of the editors)to write a book about unemployment in the industrial and empoverished northern part of England. This was the mid 30s, the recent depression had led to high unemployment and endless misery in England as elsewhere.
GO went there and dug in and lived with workers and in boarding houses and crawled through mines (though he was about twice as tall as a miner should be) and talked to people and read statistics and reports.
The outcome is an oddity. Part 1 is a solid piece of investigative reporting and journalistic sociology. Chapter 1 is along the lines of Down and Out, an account of life in a boarding house in the North. Start with chapter 2 if you are squeamish. The hygienic conditions are worse than anything in Down and Out.
The following chapters in part 1 give us decsriptions of the life of miners and work in the coal mines, of the miners' leisure time, health, work safety, accidents, the housing conditions in the fearful northern slums (worse than the slums in India and Burma, says GO, because of the cold dampness), of unemployment and malnutrition, of food and fuel, of the uglyness of industrial countries at the time. The strongest chapter in this part, in my opinion, is the one on unemployment and its psychology. This subject is timeless. Even if the slums have changed, the essential condition of unemployment is surely unchanged.
So far so good and in line with the job description.Read more ›
Orwell raises issues that could as easily apply today pertinent to those dedicated to "change" the conditions of those of whom they have little grasp. That's the only depressing thing about the book: so little has changed in so much time.
Some observations on the then-growing fascist movement in Europe are eye-openers too.
Read it and weep? Or read it and LEARN!
The first half of the book stands as a remarkable piece of journalism revealing untold squalor. Coal was the oil of its day and people wanted it in quantity and they wanted it cheap and they did not want to know what it took to produce it. It is difficult to decide what is grimmer, the work beneath the earth or the housing to which the miners returned at night. Especially mean is the fact that the privilege of a family of eight living in two leaky, barren rooms, two hundred yards from an outdoor privy, extracted most of the household wages. Orwell's urgent prose does not let anyone look away.
Orwell then turns to a discussion of class differences, the bourgeois and Socialists. He portrays a culture saturated in a class system that will be difficult to eradicate any time soon, one in which the different classes have different values, fears and perspectives that obstruct understanding and reconcilation. Socialism, which had both its bourgeois and proletariat adherents, had yet to get its act together.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting commentary by Eric Blair (George Orwell) related to the working class, class consciousness, and Socialism. Read morePublished 1 day ago by J M Hayes
I'm a big fan of George Orwell. He was way ahead of his time. His "Homage to Catalonia" is the best analysis of the failure of the republican leadership in the Spanish... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Peter J. Keiser
I wish I had read it earlier in my life. This should be part of Grade 12 curriculum. No one deserves the horror these miners suffered. All it takes is compassion - not socialism!Published 3 months ago by feedback
This wonderful book deserves all the accolades heaped on it, the first half being such a tour-de-force I think it should be compulsory reading for every 18 year-old. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Pauline Butcher Bird
This is sort of a bittersweet review for me. My granddad was a coal miner in England and Wales around the time Orwell was referencing in the book. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Karen Hartman
Terrible print-on-demand copy! No page numbers & numerous errors in text.Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
I love George Orwell's writing. Very informative about the historical and cultural issues during this period. Read morePublished 7 months ago by sudha hamilton
This is a very nicely bound hard copy edition of one of George Orwell's more well known books. The text is clear and the pages are of good quality. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Ziba