Down and Out in Paris and London

by

George Orwell

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Down and Out in Paris and London: Chapter 29 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
For Orwell and Paddy, another day means another casual ward. The Edbury spike is notable only for the fact that one can get an extra cup of tea in the morning. Otherwise, it’s like all the others. After leaving Edbury, Orwell and Paddy spend the rest of the day walking around London. They’re exhausted and their feet are killing them, but sitting is simply not allowed in London. Not for tramps, anyway.
Paddy and Orwell might as well be walking in circles—and, indeed, the London laws against loitering and street sleeping ensure that tramps spend most of their days in such needless shuffling. Their circling motion mirrors the pointless and avoidable cycle that is poverty.
Themes
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
Eventually, Orwell and Paddy end up at a Salvation Army shelter, which Orwell contends is gloomier than a spike, mostly because all “sinful” behavior is banned and the clientele are obviously clinging to their last shreds of respectability. One young man begins to rant about his job prospects, cursing the Salvation Army’s overtly Christian mission. Orwell assumes he’s drunk or hysterical. Later, he finds the young man praying and the narrator realizes the man is actually starving.
Like the Catholic charity where men are asked to pray for their supper, the Salvation Army imposes restrictions on the behavior of the men who seek shelter there. Such restrictions only serve to remind tramps that they are charity cases and nothing more—certainly not men worthy of respectful treatment and capable of making their own choices.
Themes
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
At ten at night, two officers round up all 200 men and order them to go to bed, which they do in a dormitory-like room. Orwell and Paddy get hardly any sleep thanks to a man near them who calls out “Pip!” loudly in his sleep all night long at irregular intervals. At seven, a whistle wakes them. If the whistle doesn’t work, a few officers come by and shake the tenants awake. The Salvation Army, Orwell contends, is so bent on being a charitable organization that it has forgotten how to serve men in a compassionate way.
One might think, at first blush, that the Salvation Army is to be preferred to the casual ward, but the spike, while more spartan, is at least more honest. Charities that conspicuously demand gratitude and piety heap shame on those who come to them for help and therefore are no help at all.
Themes
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
Related Quotes
That morning, Orwell goes to visit his friend B. and asks for a pound—B. gives him two. Orwell and Paddy then find another lodging house to stay in for the night—a dark, unpleasant place that is haunted, rumor has it, by homosexuals. There, Orwell witnesses two men—one clothed, one naked—bartering over clothes. They eventually come to terms and trade places.
Orwell makes no attempt in this book to hide his homophobia, an attitude that was typical of the time in which he was writing. He casually derides homosexuals, calling them “nancy boys,” and his fear of such men makes the argument over clothing fraught with sexual undertones. If clothing makes the man, then lack thereof suggests a dreaded femininity.
Themes
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
Distrust of the Other Theme Icon
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That night, Orwell has a short conversation with an Etonian (an alumnus of the prestigious Eton boarding school) whose contempt for the low types around them is matched only by his drunkenness. Declaring himself beyond redemption, the man passes out, and Orwell falls asleep, too, only to wake a short time later to a man trying to steal the money from underneath his pillow. Thieves, Paddy tells Orwell, are simply a fact of life in lodging houses.
The Etonian clearly considers himself above his fellow lodging house mates. Orwell, by contrast, is attempting to pass for a tramp. The fact that Orwell is taken aback by someone trying to rob him shows, however, that he is still very much a man of privilege among the poor, and is still unaccustomed to the ins and outs of daily life in poverty.
Themes
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon