Down and Out in Paris and London

by

George Orwell

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Down and Out in Paris and London: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Orwell and Boris pay a visit to the Auberge de Jehan Cottard to see if it is close to opening. There’s been very little progress and the patron proceeds to borrow five francs from Orwell, who is now convinced the restaurant will never open. Besides, he’s gotten used to the routine of the plongeur: the waking up before dawn, the hurrying through the Paris streets in greasy clothes to a packed Metro station, the hot work in the cramped cellar where it’s easy to forget there is a bustling city outside. Released for the afternoon, Orwell often whiles away the time sleeping or in a bistro. Sometimes the plongeurs, whose low wages do not allow them to marry, get a party together and visit a nearby brothel. After work, they make the twilight walk to the Metro and spend two hours in a café frequented by Arabs. It is a simple life, but a contented one.
If it’s true that a man can get used to anything, then he can definitely grow accustomed to, and even fond of, life as a plongeur. Orwell does not make such a life sound very fulfilling or even pleasant. All the same, he admits that he is contented, mostly because he finally does not have to worry about how he will pay rent or where his next meal will come from. This brand of contentment can lull a man into complacency, which helps places like the Hotel X remain in business. If a plongeur is too tired to pursue other work, he’ll likely forget about the pleasures that come with having free time, education, and family.
Themes
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The plongeur, says Orwell, knows only boulot, drinks, and sleep, and sleep is the most important of the three. One night, a man is murdered just beneath Orwell’s window. Orwell and the other tenants of the Hotel des Trois Moineaux go down to check on the man. When they ascertain that he is indeed dead, they go back to their beds and are soon asleep as if nothing had happened.
Manual labor and the exhaustion that results have the power to strip a man of his humanity. Orwell is virtually unaffected by the sight of the murdered man, and that is a direct result of his work at the Hotel X. Work that drains the body of its resources likewise strips a man of his humanity.
Themes
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon
Thanks to Mario, Orwell finally has a cure for bugs. He spreads pepper thickly over his bed and they leave for other rooms.
On one hand, this is a victory—as, finally, Orwell is free of bugs—but his gain is also his neighbors’ loss.
Themes
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon