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…(read full theme analysis)
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…(read full theme analysis)
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…(read full theme analysis)
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…(read full theme analysis)