George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

of ‘human nature faking, ’ it is a restrained and all the more damning indictment of a society in which such things are possible.


6.

James Farrell, New Republic

11 October 1933, pp. 256-7

James Farrell (b. 1904), American novelist, author of Studs Lonigan (1934).

Mr Orwell writes: ‘It is altogether curious, your first contact with poverty…You thought that it would be…simple; it is extraordinarily complicated. You thought that it would be terrible; it is merely squalid and boring. It is the peculiar lowness of poverty that you discover first…the complicated meanness, the crust-wiping. ’ And after poverty has become casualized, it is—utter degradation. It begets in people ‘a sniveling self-pity. ’ All their energy is forcibly directed into the satisfaction of primary wants—shelter, no matter how miserable, food, even though it be dug from a garbage can and, less important, sexual gratification, despite the fact that it be brutalized or perverted, and that it exact a toll of disease. Poverty is an unnecessary and disgusting waste of human life; the author makes this point clear.

George Orwell is an Eton graduate. In the beginning, his interest in poverty was impersonal, but he found himself penniless in Paris. He pawned his belongings, foraged for food and work, and was finally employed as a plongeur (dish-washer and handy man) in a smart Parisian hotel. There he slaved ten hours a day and longer in a dim and filthy cavern behind the glittering dining rooms of the establishment. His wages merely kept him alive. He escaped, only to be forced

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