“Down and Out in Paris and London” by George Orwell – a review

Do not kid yourself. Orwell’s novel about the consequences of living in poverty is not fiction. This might sound like a paradox, a very strange oxymoron, but it isn’t. And I’ll explain why.

This is the “made-up” story of an English writer who goes to France. Once there, he is faced with a sudden lack of wealth income. Living with almost no money, he finds it is imperative to find work. After weeks without a job, a job at an expensive Hotel in Paris surfaces when he meets a friend who tells him about it. Working as a Plonguer (in French, “dishwasher”) in the underground caves of the Hotel’s kitchen, he becomes submerged in drudgery.


In 1929, Paris was far from a paradise city, as some like to conceive it. It was a slum filled with vagrancy and indecency, masqueraded by a veneer of pomposity and luxury. Orwell wants to make sure the reader grasps this point of view.

The plotting of the book is a mere pretext for Orwell. In truth, he tries to explore the narrative as a dissertation mechanism. The book’s genius resides in its accurate, vivid description of humanity. In it, the reader is faced with a disturbing series of first-person accounts of what it was like to be deprived of money in a society that depends upon it.

Known for his pertinent essays, George Orwell cannot write novels that feed themselves solely on escapism. The subject matter of his stories often serve as subtle ploys. All he desires to do is make people think about the world in which they are so idly involved. It concerns itself with tickling one’s conscience.


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