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The Road to Wigan Pier

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  17,474 ratings  ·  1,255 reviews
A searing account of George Orwell’s experiences of working-class life in the bleak industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire, The Road to Wigan Pier is a brilliant and bitter polemic that has lost none of its political impact over time. His graphically unforgettable descriptions of social injustice, slum housing, mining conditions, squalor, hunger and growing unem ...more
Paperback, Penguin Modern Classics, 215 pages
Published April 26th 2001 by Penguin Classics (first published March 1937)
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 ·  17,474 ratings  ·  1,255 reviews

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Riku Sayuj

The Road to Wigan Pier & 1984: A Parallel Analysis

Commissioned fortuitously in the period when Socialism was on the retreat and Fascism on the rise, Orwell must already have begun to glimpse the world which he was to envision with vigorous clarity in ‘1984’. This review is a dual review then, of ‘1984’ and of ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’.

Written ostensibly as a documentary-report on the life of the working classes in the industrial towns of england, Orwell uses his reportage to investigate two cruci
Barry Pierce
Oct 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Alright Georgie I get what you're saying, being poor in the 30s was really fucking awful. I loved the way you wrote about the industrialisation of the north of England and your views on a Socialism and the such but ugh why did you write this one so... unenjoyably? It felt like I was reading a 200-page Guardian column. I had to force myself through certain parts, not because they were boring or anything but because of the way you went about writing this thing. The content is A+ but the experience ...more
Oct 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
“I am a degenerate modern semi-intellectual who would die if I did not get my early morning cup of tea and my New Statesman every Friday. Clearly I do not, in a sense, 'want' to return to a simpler, harder, probably agricultural way of life. In the same sense I don't 'want' to cut down on my drinking, to pay my debts, to take enough exercise, to be faithful to my wife, etc. etc. But in another and more permanent sense I do want these things, and perhaps in the same sense I want a civilization in ...more
Aug 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I've recently read quite a few books by George Orwell (The Clergyman's Daughter, Coming Up For Air, Keep and The Aspidistra Flying), having previously read Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm and Homage to Catalonia, and am rapidly coming to the conclusion that he's one of my favourite writers. This was only the second time I've sampled his non-fiction.

Before I discuss my thoughts on the book I want to mention how much I enjoy Orwell's writing style. In his essay Politics and the English Language
Jan 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Road to Wigan Pier FAQs

Back in the days when I hung out in that other dimension called usenet, I wrote several *FAQS* for (alas, now dead, a repository for villainous spam - RIP):

Q & A with George Orwell:

B: Will you tell us about the Brookers, the people with whom you stayed for a while in Wigan?

O: Of course - mind if I smoke? - Mrs Brooker was too ill to do anything except eat stupendous meals, and Mr Brooker was a dark, small-boned, sour, Irish-looking man, and ast
Steven Godin

If there is one thing that I love about Orwell's non-fiction/journalism - especially when dealing with Britain of the 1930s - it is that he doesn't set out to be a sensationalist by picking out certain disastrous events, but rather uses his own personal observations and experiences to broaden the horizon here and write a far more comprehensive picture of life during The Great Depression in the north of England regarding coal mines, unemployment, housing conditions, capitalism etc..., and, even t
This is a book of two halves. The second half from chapter eight onwards is autobiographical and explains how his life and experience led him to the experiences of the first half, as he says the road from Mandalay to Wigan is a long one and the reasons for taking it are not immediately clear (p.106), the suggestion is that this book is a prosaic response to Kipling's poem The Road to Mandalay., from empire to domestic politics, from Imperialism to Socialism. His approach to the latter and the pu ...more
Nov 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Much like Hemingway's lost satchel or Genet's samizdat manuscripts, I'll piece this together from jumbled memories. How's that for hubris?

The Road To Wigan Pier was amongst the best books I've read this year. The route established by Orwell is more sinuous than expected. He examines a lodging house and then travels to the pits themselves. He finds valor in those who toil. He doesn't patronize.

He ponders the unemployment issue in England. He busts myths. He unrolls lengths of statistics. He the
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in two distinctive parts I found the first to be the most interesting. Orwell painted a bleak picture of conditions for miners in the north of England. The working class didn't have it easy by any means. Dangerous working conditions, poor pay and even lesser prospects.......and then there were the slums. Visual and descriptive writing. Also enjoyed what Orwell had to say about some of his fellow authors and his take on world affairs. Interesting and informative. ...more
MJ Nicholls
The squalid living and working conditions of 1930s Northern miners. A tract on socialism. Classic Georgie.
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
In the first half of The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell catalogues his participant/observation of the economically deprived North of England focusing on squalor, pollution and hardship during the Depression. Wigan Pier is a dystopic bleak vision of degrading capitalism - without his study, 1984 would not have existed. As political polemic in the second half, he provides the solution; Socialism. Orwell, fully aware of his own upper middle class prejudices, set to challenge his own feelings of disgust ...more

"You and I and the editor of the Times Lit. Supp., and the poets and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Comrade X, author of Marxism for Infants–all of us really owe the comparative decency of our lives to poor drudges underground, blackened to the eyes, with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward with arms and belly muscles of steel."

"Every miner has blue scars on his nose and forehead, and will carry them to his death".

"All the people I saw in these places, especi
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best. Profoundly important work. Timeless relevance. Orwell's instilled personal middle class prejudices seemingly unconsciously expressed amid his objective insightful observations on the different class prejudices, as well as politics, work, hygiene, food nutrition, etc. are intriguing but don't diminish the relevance or value of this work.
To read again.
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting, thought provoking non fiction book of two parts. The first part details the living and working conditions of coal miners in England. The second part is a well reasoned essay on ‘socialism’ and the practical issues as to why the working class have not fully embraced ‘socialism’ as a political ideology to improve their working and living conditions.

Orwell goes into the underground coal mines to obtain first hand knowledge of the working conditions. He reports that the coal miner’s
Jan 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Orwell was commissioned to write this book by his publisher Victor Gollancz, a campaigner for left-wing causes and the founder of the Left Book Club. It comprises two journeys. The first finds Orwell in investigative journalist mode, as he embarks on a physical journey amongst industrial workers in the economically depressed north of England, investigating and describing the causes and symptoms of poverty. The second is a journey of the mind, which takes the form of a long essay in which Orwell
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and still relevant. The narration seemed wrong at first, but I think was perfect. This book is a bizarre mix of raw statistics, moving stories, humorous opinions, and clever political strategies.
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a great book, it’s a non-fiction about the industrial heartlands of the north of England in the 1930s, focusing particularly on the working class, the coal miners in particular. George Orwell spent a lot of time living amongst the people and observing the standard of living. It was just fascinating and made me realise that some things truly never change. Orwell’s comments on the housing crisis, the prevalence of alcoholism, gambling, and unhealthy food, and how welfare was influencing ho ...more
Aug 01, 2009 rated it liked it
I'm rereading this wonderful, bitter narration of the poor in Wigan Pier in England eleven years before I was born (first published in 1937) briefly today. It's the sad aftermath for me to review this almost dry, damp copy due to the unexpected deluge that leaked into our Language Center on the ground floor after the heavy, steady rainfalls in the evening last Thursday (September 8). Therefore, on Friday our staff, officials and students helped us move stacks of books, course sheets, academic dr ...more
Mar 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was definitely a book of two halves. The first section was reminiscent of Down and Out in Paris and London, although not as interesting. The second half was very representative of Orwell's essays, of which I've read most. So, where does that leave me feeling about this book? I didn't like it so much. I felt like I'd read most of it before and so that lessoned my enjoyment. I didn't learn anything knew here, but I still appreciated what Orwell had to say and think it's a worthwhile read if y ...more
Josh Caporale
3.5 stars

I have previously read three of Orwell's books: Animal Farm, 1984, and Keep the Aspidistra Flying. I read this book based on the recommendation of Larry from the show in order to prepare for a discussion about this book for the show, thus I made it through my fourth book by Orwell and I will say that this was among the more challenging of reads. This book is a nonfictional account that harps on Orwell's political philosophies regarding his support for Socialism. By Socialism, he means a
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“The tonnage of coal raised yearly per person employed in mining rises steadily though rather slowly. In 19 14 every mine-worker produced, on an average, 253 tons of coal; in 1934 he produced 280 tons.' This of course is an average figure for mine-workers of all kinds; those actually working at the coal face extract an enormously greater amount—in many cases, probably, well over a thousand tons each. But taking 280 tons as a representative figure, it is worth noticing what a vast achievement thi ...more
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this in the 80s and it has stayed with me since. I'd had no idea about the conditions the miners in particular worked in in the 1930s and it left me feeling very humbled and quite outraged. ...more
Feb 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: british-read
Informative and thought-provoking with loads to digest.
Apr 28, 2020 added it
As with 'Down and Out in Paris and London', this book is a strange mix of incredibly timely observations about inequality and class paired with outmoded language and troubling social views. There is no doubt that Orwell, like the vast majority of his contemporaries, was homophobic. Similarly Orwell's discussion of racial difference, even when trying to make the point that viewing whites as superior is ridiculous, is objectifying and cringe-worthy.

Still, when it comes to class, Orwell's views ar
Dec 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ken Loach wannabes, V-in-the making
I read this as a budding social revolutionary (!) in my days of high school rebellion so have fond memories of the author/book and find it difficult to slag him/it off.

That being said, I like Orwell's journalistic accounts (like this one and Burmese Days), I like his writing style as the crisp prose of a journalist shines through and I like his commitment to showing how, even in a fairly well-off society like Britain, there have always been people who are forgotten about.

It's not all about the
G.R. Hewitt
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting and insightful read and though it was written some eighty years ago it is remarkably current, timeless in many ways. There is much to stop and ponder over; for example:
Here you come upon the important fact that every revolutionary opinion draws part of its strength from a secret conviction that nothing can be changed.
Orwell pulled some things into all-too-sharp a focus for some tastes back then, which are just as challenging and eye-averting today in our so-called 'i
Anthony Buckley
Jan 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of the best pieces of reportage I have encountered. Orwell discovers the English working class and, with kindness but without sentimentality, he describes what he sees.
Aug 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays
Reading The Road to Wigan Pier got me roused up about a lot of things. First among them is to read more George Orwell. His writing is analytical, compassionate, clear, witty, honest, everything I love about great nonfiction. His description of coal miners's lives is exemplary journalism by today's standards, and this is commissioned work he did when he was only in his 20s. At the halfway point in the book, Orwell turns to the subject of socialism. He looks at it from all different perspectives, ...more
Chris Dietzel
Nov 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ever since reading and loving '1984' and 'Animal Farm' I've been looking for something of Orwell's that can compare. Although 'The Road to Wigan Pier' is nonfiction and tells of coal miners in England, for me it comes the closest to capturing his outrage at the world that I loved so much in his two classics. This book focuses on the hardships of the lower class--the biases they face, the need for liveable wages--and is incredibly relevant to what is going on in much of the world today. ...more
May 02, 2016 rated it liked it
interesting book looking at the industrial towns of the late 1930's with poverty and poor housing and the second part looking at socialism and the future of the world in view of that current events ...more
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Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

In addition to his literary career Orwell served as a police officer with the Indian Imperial

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