Down and Out in Paris and London

by

George Orwell

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Down and Out in Paris and London: Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After Orwell has been working at Hotel X for a little over a month, Boris persuades him to give notice, for the Auberge de Jehan Cottard is finally set to open the very next day. Orwell reluctantly agrees, gives his notice at Hotel X, and he and Boris pay yet another visit to the Russian restaurant, only to find that absolutely no progress has been made since the last time. It’s immediately apparent to Orwell what the patron is doing. He has engaged a small staff, including Boris and Orwell, in order to not have to pay workmen. To Boris, though, it’s all worth it, for he will again be a waiter, rather than a lowly plongeur.
The working poor cannot afford to quit a job before they have secured another one, because even if their job is miserable they need the security it provides. Boris and Orwell have no choice but to work in the restaurant for free. It’s either that or revert to their previous destitute state. Boris is, of course, part of the problem. Thanks to his delusions of grandeur, he and Orwell are easy targets for crooks like the patron.
Themes
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon
Orwell and the rest of the staff go to work at the Auberge, painting and staining and cleaning up, while the patron dodges bill collectors. Meanwhile, Orwell, who is broke again, is back to a diet of dry bread, and Boris borrows money from the patron and another Auberge waiter, spending the bulk on a “woman of sympathetic temperament” and on reclaiming his old waiter’s clothes. The cook comes to inspect the progress and weeps. Jules, the second waiter, refuses to work and instead talks about himself and his commitment to Communism, which primarily manifests itself in stealing. Ten hungry days go by. Only Boris is optimistic about his chances. Orwell, behind on his rent, spends the night on a park bench in despair. The next day, however, the patron shows up at the restaurant with money enough to finish the repairs and an advance on the narrator’s wages. The narrator and Boris finally eat that night.
The existence of the restaurant worker is precarious indeed. Orwell and the rest of the Auberge staff are at the mercy of the Patron, whose business model is built on bribes and other shady practices. When considering the fact that restaurants like the Hotel X and the Auberge are shams masquerading as fine dining establishments, Jules’s approach to his job almost makes sense. He doesn’t see why he should have to work hard for someone like the Patron, who makes a living out of cheating others. That said,  Jules’s definition of communism has been warped by his own predilection for laziness.
Themes
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon
The contractors who are brought in to finish the Auberge do shoddy work. On the night prior to opening, Orwell and Boris work hard to clean all the crockery and silverware, while Jules loafs and the cook weeps because there is not enough equipment for her to feed the customers. The patron and his wife, meanwhile, drink with their creditors, and in the morning the narrator and Boris, having slept on the floor of the restaurant wake to find two rats eating a ham on a tabletop. A bad omen, Orwell thinks.
As was the case with the Hotel X, everything at the Auberge is cheap and dirty. The patron cuts corners to squeeze as much profit out of the venture as he can, while Orwell and Boris shoulder all the labor. The rats symbolize the patron, his wife, and people like them. Conniving and without conscience, they feast on the results of others’ hard work.
Themes
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon