The Road to Wigan Pier

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I have noticed that people who let lodgings nearly always hate their lodgers.

The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) by George Orwell is a sociological look at living conditions in the industrial north of England before World War II.

Quotes[edit]

A thousand influences constantly press a working man down into a passive role. He does not act, he is acted upon.
There is at least a tinge of truth in that picture of Southern England as one enormous Brighton inhabited by lounge-lizards.
It it curious how seldom the all-importance of food is recognized.
Our age has not been altogether a bad one to live in.
This is the inevitable fate of the sentimentalist. All his opinions change into their opposites at the first brush of reality.
The world is a raft sailing through space with, potentially, plenty of provisions for everybody…
As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.
It is usual to speak of the Fascist objective as the "beehive state", which does grave injustice to bees. A world of rabbits ruled by stoats would be nearer the mark.
The logical end of mechanical progress is to reduce the human being to something resembling a brain in a bottle.
  • I have noticed that people who let lodgings nearly always hate their lodgers. They want their money but they look on them as intruders and have a curiously watchful, jealous attitude which at bottom is a determination not to let the lodger make himself too much at home.
    • Ch. 1
  • Columbus sailed the Atlantic, the first steam engines tottered into motion, the British squares stood firm under the French guns at Waterloo, the one-eyed scoundrels of the nineteenth century praised God and filled their pockets; and this is where it all led to — to labyrinthine slums and dark back kitchens with sickly, ageing people creeping round and round them like blackbeetles.
    • Ch. 1
  • I am not a manual labourer and please God I shall never be one, but there are some kinds of manual work that I could do if I had to. At a pinch I could be a tolerable road-sweeper or an inefficient gardener or even a tenth-rate farm hand. But by no conceivable amount of effort or training could I become a coal-miner; the work would kill me in a few weeks.
    • Ch. 2
  • It is so with all types of manual work; it keeps us alive, and we are oblivious of its existence. In a way it is even humiliating to watch coal miners working. It raises in you a momentary doubt about your own status as an 'intellectual' and a superior person generally. For it is brought home to you, at least while you are watching, that it is only because miners sweat their guts out that superior persons can remain superior.
    • Ch. 2
  • This business of petty inconvenience and indignity, of being kept waiting about, of having to do everything at other people's convenience, is inherent in working-class life. A thousand influences constantly press a working man down into a passive role. He does not act, he is acted upon. He feels himself the slave of mysterious authority and has a firm conviction that 'they' will never allow him to do this, that, and the other.
    • Ch. 3
  • In almost any revolt the leaders would tend to be people who could pronounce their aitches.
    • Ch. 3
  • In such places as these a woman is only a poor drudge muddling among an infinity of jobs. She may keep up her spirits, but she cannot keep up her standards of cleanliness and tidiness. There is always something to be done, and no conveniences and almost literally not room to turn round. No sooner have you washed one child's face than another is dirty; before you have washed the crocks from one meal the next is due to be cooked.
    • Ch. 4
  • Alas! Wigan Pier had been demolished, and even the spot where it used to stand is no longer certain.
    • Ch. 4
  • London is a sort of whirlpool which draws derelict people towards it, and it is so vast that life there is solitary and anonymous. Until you break the law nobody will take any notice of you, and you can go to pieces as you could not possibly do in a place where you had neighbours who knew you.
    • Ch. 5
  • It it curious how seldom the all-importance of food is recognized. You see statues everywhere to politicians, poets, bishops, but not to cooks or bacon-curers or market-gardeners.
    • Ch. 6
  • Tea, the Englishman's opium.
    • Ch. 6
  • The English palate, especially the working-class palate, now rejects good food almost automatically.
    • Ch. 6
  • There exists in England a curious cult of Northernness, sort of Northern snobbishness. A Yorkshireman in the South will always take care to let you know that he regards you as an inferior. If you ask him why, he will explain that it is only in the North that life is "real" life, that the industrial work done in the North is the only "real" work, that the North is inhabited by "real" people, the South merely by rentiers and their parasites.
    • Ch. 7
  • The Southerner goes north, at any rate for the first time, with the vague inferiority-complex of a civilized man venturing among savages.
    • Ch. 7
  • This nonsense about the superior energy of the English (actually the laziest people in Europe) has been current for at least a hundred years.
    • Ch. 7
  • There is at least a tinge of truth in that picture of Southern England as one enormous Brighton inhabited by lounge-lizards.
    • Ch. 7
  • In a Lancashire cotton-town you could probably go for months on end without once hearing an “educated” accent, whereas there can hardly be a town in the South of England where you could throw a brick without hitting the niece of a bishop.
    • Ch. 7
  • Our age has not been altogether a bad one to live in.
    • Ch. 7
  • A middle-class child is taught almost simultaneously to wash his neck, to be ready to die for his country, and to despise the "lower classes."
    • Ch. 8
  • This is the inevitable fate of the sentimentalist. All his opinions change into their opposites at the first brush of reality.
    • Ch. 10
  • The modern English literary world, at any rate the high-brow section of it, is a sort of poisonous jungle where only weeds can flourish.
    • Ch. 10
  • We spend our lives in abusing England but grow very angry when we hear a foreigner saying exactly the same things.
    • Ch. 10
  • Perhaps this class-breaking business isn't so simple as it looked! On the contrary, it is a wild ride into the darkness, and it may be that at the end of it the smile will be on the face of the tiger. With loving though slightly patronizing smiles we set out to greet our proletarian brothers, and behold! our proletarian brothers — in so far as we understand them — are not asking for our greetings, they are asking us to commit suicide. When the bourgeois sees it in that form he takes to flight.
    • Ch. 10
  • The world is a raft sailing through space with, potentially, plenty of provisions for everybody; the idea that we must all cooperate and see to it that everyone does his fair share of the work and gets his fair share of the provisions seems so blatantly obvious that one would say that no one could possibly fail to accept it unless he had some corrupt motive for clinging to the present system.
    • Ch. 11
  • As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.
    • Ch. 11
  • In addition to this there is the horrible — the really disquieting — prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. 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.
    • Ch. 11
  • To the ordinary working man, the sort you would meet in any pub on Saturday night, Socialism does not mean much more than better wages and shorter hours and nobody bossing you about. To the more revolutionary type, the type who is a hunger-marcher and is blacklisted by employers, the word is a sort of rallying-cry against the forces of oppression, a vague threat of future violence.
    • Ch. 11
  • The underlying motive of many Socialists, I believe, is simply a hypertrophied sense of order. The present state of affairs offends them not because it causes misery, still less because it makes freedom impossible, but because it is untidy; what they desire, basically, is to reduce the world to something resembling a chess-board.
    • Ch. 11
  • The ordinary man may not flinch from a dictatorship of the proletariat, if you offer it tactfully; offer him a dictatorship of the prigs, and he gets ready to fight.
    • Ch. 11
  • The high-water mark, so to speak, of Socialist literature is W. H. Auden, a sort of gutless Kipling, and the even feebler poets who are associated with him.
    • Ch. 11
  • It is usual to speak of the Fascist objective as the "beehive state", which does grave injustice to bees. A world of rabbits ruled by stoats would be nearer the mark.
    • Ch. 12
  • The logical end of mechanical progress is to reduce the human being to something resembling a brain in a bottle. That is the goal towards which we are already moving, though, of course, we have no intention of getting there; just as a man who drinks a bottle of whiskey a day does not actually intend to get cirrhosis of the liver.
    • Ch. 12
  • Sometimes when I listen to these people talking, and still more when I read their books, I get the impression that, to them, the whole Socialist movement is no more than a kind of exciting heresy-hunt — a leaping to and fro of frenzied witch-doctors to the beat of tom-toms and the tune of "Fee fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of a right-wing deviationist!"
    • Ch. 13
  • 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.
    • Ch. 13

External links[edit]

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