Down and Out in Paris and London

by

George Orwell

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Down and Out in Paris and London: Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The Auberge is finally open for business and, as such, is serving customers bad food with flare. The tiny kitchen is filthy—the entire operation, in fact, is characterized by filth. By the end of the day, the kitchen floor is an inch-thick in food scraps and, since the restaurant does not have a larder, the meat and vegetables are kept outside in a shed where they’re often fed upon by vermin. Even that food is difficult to come by. The staff has to haggle and cajole their way through trips to the grocer and produce market, and the electric often goes out at the dinner hour.
Given its beginnings, it’s no surprise that the Auberge is a haven for vermin. The dirt and grime that surround the staff are an outward manifestation of the patron’s unscrupulous character, but it’s the staff that suffers because the patron, part of the ruling class, is spared the humiliation of begging.
Themes
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon
Everyone at the Auberge works 17-18 hour days, and Orwell begins to long for his former job at the Hotel X. He feels this especially in the early hours of the morning when he has the unenviable task of scrubbing copper saucepans and trying to make coffee for the guests and staff, though hot water is almost impossible to come by.
Orwell’s duties at the Hotel X were hard enough. Now he has discovered that many workers have it even worse. It is only dishwashing at a place like the Auberge that could make a man nostalgic for the back-breaking days at the Hotel X.
Themes
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
At 11 a.m. everything devolves into bad tempered chaos with the guests arriving for lunch and the waiters wanting theirs and the cook shouting unending orders from her spot at the kitchen’s inadequate gas stoves. After lunch and in advance of the dinner hour, Orwell does his best to wash an army’s worth of dirty dishes without the benefit of actual soap. He and the cook, having not eaten a thing all day, are falling asleep on their feet. They revive themselves with tea, which they drink by the pint. The cook succumbs to regular weeping fits over the stress of the work and the sad circumstances of her life, but the staff, too tired to feel any pity, mocks her, and everyone bickers throughout the day. Boris and Jules come to blows over Boris pocketing the bulk of the tips.
Making coffee without hot water, washing without soap—lack determines the tenor of Orwell’s days in Paris, and that lack gradually strips away any empathy he might have had for people like the cook. This is a continuation of the theme Orwell touched on before in the scene with the murdered man. Lack of sleep, combined with overwork in a filthy environment, turns a man into something other than a man. He becomes a cruel and petty creature, concerned only with his own survival.
Themes
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon
The patron, in contrast, stands around smoking and looking gentlemanly. It’s his only job. Late in the evening, Orwell and the cook have their dinner, and at closing time Orwell does a hurried job of cleaning up. Then, having accepted a brandy from the patron, he hurries to the Metro and is in bed by 1 a.m.
The patron either has no idea what his staff goes through on a daily basis or simply doesn’t care. The brandy is not what Orwell needs. He requires more money and more time, but an empty gesture is all the patron is capable of.
Themes
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon
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