Down and Out in Paris and London

by

George Orwell

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Clothing Symbol Analysis

Clothing Symbol Icon

For the wealthy, clothes are often stand-ins for status. For the poor, clothing is an outward manifestation of their struggle for equality in a world that benefits from inequality. Good, clean clothing is of utmost importance to a poor man hoping to change his fortunes by getting a job, but poverty makes such apparel almost impossible to come by. Unable to secure gainful employment because of their shabby looks, the poor are often forced to pawn their clothing to afford food, further ensuring that poor people will not be able to secure employment. In this way, trying to outfit oneself is a vicious cycle like so many other painful aspects of poverty. Orwell, having sold his last suit for pennies and hobo rags, discovers first-hand the power of clothing to alter one’s sense of self. “Dressed in a tramp’s clothes, it is very difficult, at least for the first day, not to feel that you are genuinely degraded,” he writes. “You might feel the same shame, irrational but very real, your first time in prison.” Not coincidentally, the casual wards of London are very much like jailhouses. Men must shed their own clothing for the night and wear what the wardens give them, which are usually ill-fitting, shapeless garments that do nothing to keep off the cold. Later, they are made to line up, naked, and submit to a humiliating medical exam. If hobo rags are degrading, then forced nudity is worse, and Orwell reminds the reader that clothing is not only a clear indication of class, but also a tool used by the better-off to manipulate and intimidate those below them.

Clothing Quotes in Down and Out in Paris and London

The Down and Out in Paris and London quotes below all refer to the symbol of Clothing. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Mariner Books edition of Down and Out in Paris and London published in 1972.
Chapter 9 Quotes

Appearance—appearance is everything, mon ami. Give me a new suit and I will borrow a thousand francs by dinner-time.

Related Characters: Boris (speaker), George Orwell, The Patron
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22 Quotes

The mass of the rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit.

Related Characters: George Orwell (speaker)
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 24 Quotes

Dirt is a great respecter of persons; it lets you alone when you are well dressed, but as soon as your collar is gone, it flies towards you from all directions.

Related Characters: George Orwell (speaker)
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:
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Clothing Symbol Timeline in Down and Out in Paris and London

The timeline below shows where the symbol Clothing appears in Down and Out in Paris and London. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon
...of his English tutoring pupils and cheated by another, finds himself needing to pawn his clothes in order to live. The pawnshop is a large, open place where everyone can see... (full context)
Chapter 35
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
...they’re not unhappy with their lives exactly. They just wish they weren’t required to wear clothing that robs them of their dignity. Orwell takes his midday meal with the paupers, stuffing... (full context)