“Down and Out Paris and London”The story of “Down And Out In Paris And London” deals with the author’sexperience with tramps and the poverty stricken in Paris and London in the1920’s. He lives with them on equal terms and suffers the same hardships andtribulations.Orwell shows great compassion for the plight of the poor and feels thatsociety is very unfair in their criticism and judgment of the tramps and beggarsthat roam the streets. He feels that these people are victims of theircircumstances. To be belligerent towards tramps is no fairer than to be that waytowards invalids and the handicapped, in that they are that way not because theywant to be, but because of their circumstances. In this essay we will explorethe characteristics and personality of a person who lives below the poverty line.Through the author we get a very keen insight into this area of humanexperience.
Orwell feels that beggars and tramps have unfair labels and stereotypesattached to them. For example, most people think of tramps as being dangerous.About that Orwell says:”Quite apart from experience, one can say a priori that very few tramps aredangerous, because if they were dangerous they would be treated accordingly. Acasual ward will often admit a hundred tramps in one night, and these arehandled by a staff of at most three porters. A hundred ruffians could not becontrolled by three unarmed men.
Indeed, when one sees how ramps let themselvesbe bullied by the work house officials, it is obvious that they are the mostdocile, broken-spirited creatures imaginable. “(p. 204)About the term “drunkard” Orwell disagrees also saying:”Or take the idea that all tramps are drunkards — an idea ridiculous on theface of it. No doubt many tramps would drink if they got the chance, but in thenature of things they cannot get the chance. At this moment a pale watery stuffcalled beer is seven pence a pint in England.
To be drunk on it would cost atleast half a crown, and a man who can command half a crown at all often is not atramp.” (p. 204)I am not sure that I necessarily agree with this I do not believe thatall tramps are dangerous. I do believe that when one reaches such a desperatelevel of poverty that he would be tempted to do unscrupulous acts to alleviatehis situation.As for all tramps being drunkards, I would not say all, but I do thinkthere is a segment of these people (as there are in any social level) of thosewho live to drink. There are those who will use whatever handout they get tosatisfy this need to drink.Orwell believes that poverty frees people from ordinary standards ofbehavior, that they take on rather eccentric characteristics and give up tryingto be normal.
Having lived the life of poverty he discusses the redeemingfeatures of povertythe fact that it annihilates the future. In other words,without money, one does not need to think about the future and just take one dayat a time. Orwell says: “Within certain limits, it is actually true that theless money you have, the less you worry. When you have a hundred francs in theworld you are libel to the most craven panics. When you have only three francsin the world you are quite indifferent; for three francs will feed you tilltomorrow, and you cannot think further that that.” (p. 16)He says that another feeling associated with poverty is a feeling ofconsolation.
Somewhat of a relief that you have finally reached the stage ofbeing down and out and are surviving.Another idea is that people tend to think that poor people arefundamentally different from the rich, as if they are another race. Not true,says Orwell In reality there is no such difference, that the rich and poor aredifferent only by their incomes. He expresses this by saying: “The averagemillionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit.” (p. 121)Orwell discusses the powerful effect that one’s clothes has on one’spersonality and how they affect how one is perceived.
Once one puts on theclothes of a tramp, Orwell discovered, one is put in an entirely different world.To begin with, one feels degraded and shameful and one is treated the same way.People react to you differently and women especially have a strong reaction toa man’s clothes.”When a badly dressed man passes them they shudder away from him with a quitefrank movement of disgust, as though he were a dead cat.
” (p. 130)Orwellcompares the feeling of the first day in tramps’ clothes to being in a jail cellsaying “You might feel the same shame, irrational but very real, your firstnight in prison.” (p. 130)I certainly felt that after reading George Orwell’s experiences in “DownAnd Out In Paris And London” that I have a better understanding of people wholive at this level of society. I have probably been too quick to brush them offand attach a certain stereotype to them. Now I understand better theircircumstances and their way of thinking.
The Author explains the personality ofa beggar or tramp and I can definitely sympathize more. As George Orwell said”That is a beginning” (p. 216)