The Road to Wigan Pier is not a novel but it is an utterly readable account of the sufferings of the British working-classes in the 1930s, and the mess the class system has got us all into after the First World War. This is not a magisterial history book: it is absolutely a polemic from a single perspective. Our Top Ten Posts for 2019 – Kate Macdonald, Domestic politics in Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love. Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. It is very, very political. So this book about the underclasses, the unemployed, and the poverty-stricken and disadvantaged was to be read by the moneyed advantaged who wanted to be educated in a way that went beyond just statistics. He mentions his earlier books, to suggest further reading, and to fill in the gaps in his account of his own class experience. If you want to find out about the everyday filth, discomfort, lack of privacy, lack of dignity and lack of basic hygiene that were normal living conditions in the 1930s for hundreds of thousands of British working people struggling to live decently, and for the unemployed, the homeless, and the abandoned, this is the book for you. Wigan Pier is a one-sided account, not a complete picture, in many ways. My, how times have changed. He specialised in pulling back the carpet from the floor of British self-image, to show the world what they didn’t want to know about. The next chapter of The Road to Wigan Pier deals with unemployment. tags: luxuries, poverty. Throughout Wigan Pier, when Orwell says ‘the war’, he only means the First World War. Orwell’s point in telling this story is that Empire-criticism was only just becoming respectable when Wigan Pier was published: for readers now, who are accustomed to routinely slanging the memory of the British Empire and all its works, this is a bit of a shock. Orwell’s political context was that Communism is quite normal, just as a vegetarianism is now quite normal, yet certainly wasn’t then: Orwell really finds vegetarians offensive. He uses statistics, which is good and proper for a book on income and hours and the pennies people live on, but they can be heavy going, though mercifully only appear in patches. He watches families without a wage-earning member scrabble for scraps of coal from the slag heaps. He talks about Socialism with familiarity, as if it were the normal everyday political affiliation that most people had at the time, but he only sneers at the other political colours of thinking. It’s clear that despite all his respect for the amazing physical prowess of the miners, and his empathy for the miserable lives in filthy, cramped back-to-back houses, he writes as if the lower classes are ‘other’, alien and different. and he wielded them mightily! Learn how your comment data is processed. If you find Orwell’s fiction too brutal for enjoyment, as I do, try his non-fiction instead, and do try Wigan Pier; it is an excellent introduction to one of the greatest British political writers.