Orwell and Paddy go in search of Paddy’s friend Bozo, a pavement artist. They find him on the London Embankment, copying a profile of Winston Churchill. Bozo then regales Paddy and the narrator with a tale of the screever trade (or the trade of sidewalk artistry). Bozo is mainly a political cartoonist. He paints satirical cartoons on the pavement, collects money from tourists—foreigners, minorities, various shabby types—and then washes off his drawing at the end of the day. It’s a difficult way to make a living, and he has to be careful not to paint anything that seems to support socialism, since the cops won’t like it and they’ll make him scrub it off right away. Bozo has contempt for the other screevers. They’re not serious like he is, he says, and one old man paints the same sentimental image—that of a dog saving a child from drowning—day after day.
Screeving is the perfect metaphor for the life of a poor man. Regardless of whether he is a true artist or someone who simply paints the same sentimental drivel every passing day, the screever’s work is temporary, easily erased, and just as easily forgotten. In this way, it is analogous to Orwell’s life as a London tramp. Orwell and Paddy do nothing worthwhile from one day to the next. They simply walk, drink tea when they’re able, sleep (usually in a cell), and wake up, only to repeat the same futile routine over and over in perpetuity. Neither the screever nor the poor man leaves anything of worth behind him.
Orwell is intrigued by Bozo and he returns to the Embankment later on that night. Bozo then leads Orwell and Paddy to a lodging house he knows of south of the river. Bozo stops to star gaze, impressing the narrator with his knowledge of the night sky. Then he tells Orwell his life story, beginning with his childhood as the son of a bankrupt bookseller and ending with his work as a screever.
Up until this point, it would seem that none of the poor men Orwell meets has any relationship with the natural world. Bozo’s stopping to look at the stars is notable because a) it sets him apart and b) it suggests that most poor men do not have the time to cultivate such a sense of wonder.
Having served in the army during the war, Bozo lived in Paris and worked as a house painter for a while. He lost his fiancé in a bus accident, then he went to work shaky and fell from a trestle, losing the use of one of his legs. Getting only a pittance in settlement, he tried his hand at hocking toys and books on street corners. Finally, he settled on screeving and, despite the fact that he is penniless and crippled, he harbors no regrets, feels no self-pity, and continues every day to find something to take interest in. He refuses to be grateful for the charity he receives, he is a stubborn atheist, and he takes comfort in the thought that perhaps on Mars or Jupiter, the life of a screever must be even harder than here. Bozo is an exceptional man, Orwell decides.
Bozo’s story fits the heretofore established pattern of a man falling into poverty thanks mainly to a stroke of bad luck—in this case, his loss of his fiancé in an accident consequently causing him to become a cripple. His attitude does not, however, fit the pattern that Orwell is used to. Not only does he find pleasure in life, but he also manages to hold tight to a sense of self. But Orwell makes it clear that Bozo is an outlier. Most men are not able to rise above such sad circumstances.