Down and Out in Paris and London


George Orwell

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Down and Out in Paris and London Themes

Themes and Colors
Poverty as Prison Theme Icon
Poverty as Opportunity Theme Icon
Poverty is Unnecessary Theme Icon
Honesty Does Not Pay Theme Icon
Distrust of the Other Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Down and Out in Paris and London, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Poverty as Prison

Down and Out in Paris and London is a story of poverty. George Orwell makes it clear from the beginning that his book, which has been described as both a memoir and as an autobiographical novel, is meant to dash misconceptions about the poor and illustrate the effect that being poor has on the human psyche. Orwell attacks the idea (which was commonly held at the time and is even still widely held today) that…

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Poverty as Opportunity

While Orwell shows how poverty shrinks the horizons of the poor, he does see it as having two redeeming qualities: it frees its victims from the sometimes-stifling demands of traditional respectability, and it renders moot any worry they might feel about the future.

To Orwell, being poor gives a person license to be different, and he does indeed meet a number of poor eccentrics in both Paris and London. “The Paris slums,” writes Orwell in…

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Poverty is Unnecessary

Orwell argues that there is no reason for poverty to exist. People live in poverty only because of selfishness and greed, the norms of consumption, and the social hierarchies that structure the world.

One way that Orwell attacks the logic of poverty is to weigh its costs against its benefits. He does this by contrasting the life of the poor with the luxurious lives of those who employ poor people. Orwell, who himself worked as…

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Honesty Does Not Pay

While Orwell hopes for a radical transformation of society that will eliminate the sort of poverty he experienced, the world he portrays seems to offer slim chances of that happening. Orwell ultimately sees society as being built on deception. Put another way, over the course of the book Orwell discovers that truth telling does not pay in a culture that is, at its heart, rotten.

According to Orwell, the rich lie to get richer. Sometimes…

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Distrust of the Other

In Down and Out in Paris and London, Orwell is prone to a casual bigotry that was common in his time and place in society. While he reserves most of his ire for the rich, he also maligns Jews, Armenians, women, and gay people, treating them unsympathetically as stereotypes. This is particularly notable in light of the purpose of Orwell’s book: to argue for the humane treatment of those who are economically marginalized. While…

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