The Road To Wigan Pier by George Orwell

The Road To Wigan Pier by George Orwell

Postby JacobLouisBeaney » Wed Oct 28, 2015 7:57 pm

In The Road to Wigan Pier Orwell explores and documents unemployment and poverty in Yorkshire and Lancashire in 1930's Britain. However the book feels so contemporary and relates so much to the issues currently facing Britain that it's easy to forget it's over 80 years old. It's both an enjoyable read and a fascinating document of social history, containing a well balanced mixture of documentary, narrative and polemic. There are great moments of humour as well as Orwell masterfully captures some of the more grotesque and comic characters he encounters who are almost Dickensian in their comic repulsiveness.

I found the descriptions of a miners life to be particularly fascinating. The Northern coal miner has become something of a mythological character in the English collective unconscious, with his flat cap and coal smeared face, he's now akin to the Cornish pixie and Irish Leprechaun and almost as rare. So it was good to actually have a first hand account of what it was like to be a coal miner (which was generally really hard and shit) as opposed to the ridiculous 'grim up North' stereotype that previously existed in my mind.

One of my favourite parts of the book describes the traditional diet of the English working class, which warmly reminded me of my nan and grandad who were of that generation who regarded gravy as a life giving health tonic. A typical diet would include: beef, white bread and marg, jam, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and onions...although it was custom that all vegetables were to be thoroughly boiled until all nutrients and vitamins had been utterly destroyed.

It's amazing that with this awful diet, back breaking daily labour and the social custom of heavy drinking and smoking that anyone lived past 25. My great nan who lived mainly on lard sandwiches, smoked 80 a day and who was always slightly pissed lived to be 102. Although by the end her face did resemble a well gnawed pigs trotter that had spent a decade behind a radiator.

It is incredible how drastically our diets have changed in such a short space of time, the top 3 meals in the contemporary English diet having originated in Italy, Mexico and India. Even the classic greasy spoon has vanished from the high streets to be replaced with pseudo-Italian coffee shops selling paninis full of gourmet, unpronounceable named cheese and ham that has been matured for impressively long periods of times.

The second half of the book deals with the issue of socialism and class, with Orwell frequently attacking bearded fruit juice drinkers, though why fruit juice drinking is regarded in such contempt is a rare example of the text losing its full meaning to its historical context. Or maybe Orwell just had an irrational hatred of people who drank fruit juice.

The second half also explores a debate which is currently in full steam...socialism or free market neo-liberalism? There has even been a few articles referencing the book quite recently as an example of where British society is heading.

Orwell was a self confessed socialist but had a distinct disdain for his fellow socialists, mainly on the ground that they were all a bunch of contemptible assholes. It reminds me so much of today's Green Party, who though they preach a message of high importance...equality, liberty, the environment are comprised of such a cabal of humourless, middle class, sanctimonious crusties who are so thoroughly up their own rectum you would rather the human race enslaved and the planet destroyed than side with them on anything.

Orwell felt the same in his time with socialists, that a noble cause would never garner enough public appeal due to the unappetising nature of the people preaching the message.

The book also examines the issue of class, whose divisions haven't diminished any in the 80 years since the book was published and if anything have grown more complex.

Overall a thoroughly enjoyable, insightful, and informative read which I highly recommended. I only wish there was someone as talented and entertaining as Orwell exploring such issues today.
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Re: The Road To Wigan Pier by George Orwell

Postby CAP » Fri Oct 30, 2015 12:36 am

Your best review yet. :)
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