Orwell, on passage to England, befriends a newlywed pair of Romanians and entertains them with stories of England’s superiority as a country, particularly in relation to France. Eagerly anticipating his new job taking care of the “tame imbecile” and secure and content in the thought of finally not being poor anymore, he grows expansive, exaggerating all of England’s virtues and minimizing her flaws. Then, having arrived in England, he pays a visit to his friend, B., who informs Orwell that his employers have left the country for a month and that his services are not needed until they return.
Orwell is aware that he is misleading the Romanian couple, but, buoyed by hope, he can’t seem to help himself. He appears as optimistic and delusional as Boris, and then, like his friend, suffers a setback when he discovers that the easy life he imagined for himself is, as of yet, still out of reach. As elsewhere in Orwell’s story, every couple of steps forward seem to be accompanied by one step backward.
Orwell spends the night out-of-doors wandering the city, and the next day he decides to try to pawn some of his clothes. Several shopkeepers rudely refuse him. One, pink like a slice of ham, offers him a shilling and some dirty rags in return for his things. The clothes he gets from the shopkeeper are like those a truly down-on-his-luck man would wear. In fact, the narrator sees himself in a window later and mistakes himself for a tramp. He realizes quickly how differently people treat him now that he looks the part of the poor man.
Why Orwell sells his clothes so quickly is a conundrum. It’s almost as if his desire to experience poverty in order to write about its struggles has clouded his judgment. He might look the part of the hobo, but he is still a man from a genteel family with a friend like B., who is able to loan him money whenever he asks.
Orwell finds a bed for the night in a home for single gentlemen. It is a house of horrors. The bed is incredibly uncomfortable, the bed clothes filthy, and his companions loud, sick, and revolting. After probably only an hour’s actual sleep, Orwell gets up to go wash, but the bathroom is as dirty as the beds and he leaves without cleaning himself. He goes to a coffee shop and orders two slices of bread. His money is rapidly running out.
It’s the Hotel X versus the Auberge all over again. The Hotel des Trois Moineaux might have been bug infested and dirty, but this lodging house makes Orwell’s Parisian apartment look like paradise. The fact that he can no longer perform basic hygiene suggests that his impoverishment has entered a new and more serious phase.