Down and Out in Paris and London

by

George Orwell

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Down and Out in Paris and London: Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Charlie, the piggish young man who spent the happiest day of his life raping a prostitute in a brothel, entertains the Saturday night bistro crowd with a story about a time when he was hungry. Without any allowance from home and refusing to work, he came up with a plan to feed himself and the young peasant woman who was living with him. The plan was to send the girl to a government-run maternity hospital where she would be fed, no questions asked, to ensure the health of her unborn child.
Orwell made it clear in Chapter 2 that Charlie is not an upstanding young man. Unlike many of the tenants of the Hotel des Trois Moineaux, Charlie’s impoverishment is essentially voluntary, as he comes from a well-off family and simply prefers not to work. This scheme is yet another example of his lack of moral fiber. Rather than support himself and the woman, he prefers to cheat a charity.
Themes
Poverty as Opportunity Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon
The woman, reluctant at first, eventually allowed Charlie to stuff her dress with pillows and she went to the hospital where they fed her generously—so generously, in fact, that she was able to secret some food back to Charlie. They continued this routine until he came back into money, and all was well until one day, while strolling along the Port Royal, they ran into the head nurse of the maternity hospital. Charlie’s companion was mortified and sure her lie would be discovered.
Charlie is, in some ways, a foil to Orwell. Both Charlie and Orwell could escape poverty if they wished. Orwell, though, does his best to live an honest life, whereas Charlie seems to prefer scams and stealing to actual work. Charlie highlights Orwell’s relatively strong ethics, while at the same time reminding the reader that Orwell is an outsider in this world.
Themes
Poverty as Opportunity Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon
The nurse asked Charlie’s very red-faced companion if her baby was a boy or a girl, and she answered “no.” The nurse found this a puzzling reply, but Charlie came to the rescue just in time, declaring that the girl had twins.
This humorous story has a sinister message, suggesting that religious charities are like babies—innocent to a fault, and easily fooled.
Themes
Poverty as Opportunity Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon