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The Road to Wigan Pier (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

George Orwell , Richard Hoggart
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 April 2001 Penguin Modern Classics

In 1936 George Orwell was commissioned to visit areas of mass unemployment in the North of England, and The Road to Wigan Pier is a powerful description of the poverty he witnessed there, published with an introduction by Richard Hoggart in Penguin Modern Classics.

A searing account of George Orwell's observations of working-class life in the bleak industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire in the 1930s, 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, cramped slum housing, dangerous mining conditions, squalor, hunger and growing unemployment are written with unblinking honesty, fury and great humanity. It crystallized the ideas that would be found in Orwell's later works and novels, and remains a powerful portrait of poverty, injustice and class divisions in Britain.

Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), better known by his pen-name, George Orwell, was born in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. An author and journalist, Orwell was one of the most prominent and influential figures in twentieth-century literature. His unique political allegory Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with the dystopia of Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame. All his novels and non-fiction, including Burmese Days (1934), Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) and Homage to Catalonia (1938) are published in Penguin Modern Classics.

If you enjoyed The Road to Wigan Pier you might like Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'True genius ... all his anger and frustration found their first proper means of expression in Wigan Pier'

Peter Ackroyd, The Times

'It is easy to see why the book created and still creates so sharp an impact ... exceptional immediacy, freshness and vigour, opinionated and bold ... Above all, it is a study of poverty and, behind that, of the strength of class-divisions'

Richard Hoggart


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (26 April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141185295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141185293
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

George Orwell is one of England's most famous writers and social commentators. Among his works are the classic political satire Animal Farm and the dystopian nightmare vision Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell was also a prolific essayist, and it is for these works that he was perhaps best known during his lifetime. They include Why I Write and Politics and the English Language. His writing is at once insightful, poignant and entertaining, and continues to be read widely all over the world.

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) was born in 1903 in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. The family moved to England in 1907 and in 1917 Orwell entered Eton, where he contributed regularly to the various college magazines. From 1922 to 1927 he served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, an experience that inspired his first novel, Burmese Days (1934). Several years of poverty followed. He lived in Paris for two years before returning to England, where he worked successively as a private tutor, schoolteacher and bookshop assistant, and contributed reviews and articles to a number of periodicals. Down and Out in Paris and London was published in 1933. In 1936 he was commissioned by Victor Gollancz to visit areas of mass unemployment in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) is a powerful description of the poverty he saw there.

At the end of 1936 Orwell went to Spain to fight for the Republicans and was wounded. Homage to Catalonia is his account of the civil war. He was admitted to a sanatorium in 1938 and from then on was never fully fit. He spent six months in Morocco and there wrote Coming Up for Air. During the Second World War he served in the Home Guard and worked for the BBC Eastern Service from 1941 to 1943. As literary editor of the Tribune he contributed a regular page of political and literary commentary, and he also wrote for the Observer and later for the Manchester Evening News. His unique political allegory, Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame.

It was around this time that Orwell's unique political allegory Animal Farm (1945) was published. The novel is recognised as a classic of modern political satire and is simultaneously an engaging story and convincing allegory. It was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which finally brought him world-wide fame. Nineteen Eighty-Four's ominous depiction of a repressive, totalitarian regime shocked contemporary readers, but ensures that the book remains perhaps the preeminent dystopian novel of modern literature.

Orwell's fiercely moral writing has consistently struck a chord with each passing generation. The intense honesty and insight of his essays and non-fiction made Orwell one of the foremost social commentators of his age. Added to this, his ability to construct elaborately imaginative fictional worlds, which he imbued with this acute sense of morality, has undoubtedly assured his contemporary and future relevance.

George Orwell died in London in January 1950.

Product Description

Review

* If 'peerless prose' could apply to one writer alone, I'd accord it to Orwell The Guardian * Jeremy Northam is superb. The manner is wholly entertaining yet maintaining an air of informative anecdote making the book so real and alive. The School Librarian on Down and Out in Paris and London * Simon Callow's remarkable narration brings out the many layers of Orwell's fable... Brilliant' The Observer on Animal Farm * Nineteen Eighty-Four is given fresh life through this vigorous narration The Observer on Ninteen Eighty-Four --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) was born in India in 1903. He was educated at Eton, served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, and worked in Britain as a private tutor, schoolteacher, bookshop assistant and journalist. In 1936, Orwell went to fight for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War and was wounded. In 1938 he was admitted into a sanatorium and from then on was never fully fit. George Orwell died in London in 1950.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The first sound in the mornings was the clumping of the mill-girls' clogs down the cobbled street. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
74 of 77 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Notes on 'The Road to Wigan Pier'. 1 April 2006
Format:Paperback
'The Road to Wigan Pier' is split into two parts. Part one is George Orwell's recording of his experiences in the North of England, meeting miner's families and reporting at first hand what he saw and heard. Orwell records with sincerity the working class condition. There is no blame or embellishment of what Orwell saw. Orwell's descriptions of the people in the boarding houses he was staying in, are wonderful. You really get a sense of the filth and depravation, and yet the people make you feel at home, to the point of marking your bread and butter with "a black thumb-print on it". I appreciate Orwell's candid writing. The stark reality of poverty is brought to life by Orwell, from his description of the conditions of working in the mines, to the weekly shopping bill and food consumption.
Part two is Orwell's polemic on what he saw and experienced. I found this part of the book filled with passion, anger and justifications. Orwell always makes sure to explain the reasoning behind his arguements and even apologises for his background. Part two consists of political theories, language, class distinction and the personal journey Orwell experienced whilst researching part one.
In my opinion, 'The Road to Wigan Pier' is a wonderful snapshot of a time and a place. It still has a place in literature today as a reminder to us all that there are still destitute people in the world and that things haven't changed as much as we hoped.
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68 of 72 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Picture Speaks for Itself 14 Nov 2002
Format:Paperback
This book is divided into two sections. The first is a devastating account of the lives of coal miners in the north of England. While this account may be exaggerated it is completely conceivable that life in this time under such social and political conditions might have been like this. He goes to considerable length to explore the personal reactions and methods of endurance of the people he met. Orwell's dedication to exploring what life was really like for the coal miners was made at considerable personal discomfort and were as heroic as Jonathan Kozol's efforts in our present time.
The second half of the book is a long argument by Orwell of the negative aspects of socialism. He does this in order to provoke a serious discussion over how socialism can be implemented in our society. He understood well, as demonstrated in 1984, that many political parties use propaganda as a means of convincing the public that theirs is the right way. But, by taking the opposing view and criticising his own beliefs, he is able to bring the issues of the party into an open forum to consider implementations of change rather than party rhetoric. He does this most sincerely and in no way tries to hide the faults of the socialist political system of thought. In doing so he proves himself to be quite dignified in his system of beliefs. The juxtaposition of these two sections provides a striking idea of the immediate need for political reformation. He did not need to defend socialism because the need for a political change that could effect the lives of the lower class he investigated was obvious. This showed that Orwell's political ideas didn't exist on some ideological utopian plain, but were firmly rooted in the immense danger a political system could inflict upon a large population.
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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
George Orwell, commissioned by the Left Book Club, tours the recession hit mining areas of Lancashire and Yorkshire in 1936 and his report on the harsh social conditions he found there (the first part of this book) pulls no punches. No-one before or since has done reporterage like George Orwell and the vividness and directness of his prose with its underlying blazing committment to social justice strikes the reader, even at this remove of time. Orwell's descriptions, couched in his superb prose, will remain in your mind for ever and should be re-read by everyone as a reminder of just how harsh life was for many people, within living memory. Orwell is particularly good about the desperation, the struggle with respectability and the terrible psychological and social toll of unemployment and poverty.
The second part of the book charts Orwell's personal odyssey from public schoolboy and officer of the Indian Imperial Police in Burma to crusading Left-wing author and journalist. Along the way Orwell expounds his personal strategy for Socialism. Although dated, his insights are fascinating, describing as they do the origins of the class struggle ideas that infested and inflamed British politics right up to the 1990s. Orwell is bitingly caustic about many of his fellow Socialists, castigating the obsession with mechanical progress, the worship of Russia and the crank tendencies (still evident in the British Labour Party) - "...the dreary tribe of high-minded women...and the bearded fruit-juice drinkers that flock to the idea of 'progress' like bluebottles do to a dead cat".
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Has Changed 5 Jun 2008
Format:Paperback
Born and bred in Wigan.I had read 1984 and Animal Farm but had put off reading TRTWP until I was 50.
Orwell writes of the hopelessness of the masses and concludes that they accept their lot because of the "palliatives" of modern technology i.e.cheap clothing (dream of being Greta Garbo or Clark Gable) , alcohol,the movies, radio, the football pools etc.
The government massage and manipulate statistics to show unemployment levels and poverty to be a fraction as bad as they really are.
The middle-class believed that the poor should be instructed to spend their means tested allowance wisely eating tasteless but healthy food,wholemeal bread,oranges,raw carrots etc and to shun alcohol and tobacco etc.
Tell me as anything really changed or have we come full circle under New Labour.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A rather sobering read
A rather sobering read considering it was written in 1937 and yet it resonates with modern themes such as the living wage, housing shortages and malnutrition.
Published 1 month ago by Lucy Johns
5.0 out of 5 stars Orwell as great as ever.
Just realised the review I just posted for "Down and Out in Paris..." would have been more appropriate to TRTWP. Read more
Published 1 month ago by A. Frost
5.0 out of 5 stars Bleak and Educational and Necessary Reading.
Orwell's observation on life in Wigan in 1936 makes bleak but informative reading. Orwell also wrote "Down and Out in Paris and London" and both books concentrated on... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nicodemus
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read
Every single person alive in the UK should read this book. It will remind us all of how good we have it now. It's a hard read. Read more
Published 1 month ago by michele j barley
3.0 out of 5 stars So so, disappointing after reading 1984 and Animal Farm
First half in interesting, second half less so unless you are interested in 1930s UK politics. Quite dull reading to be honest.
Published 1 month ago by David Bowman
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye opener
In some aspects, This could be as relevant today as it was when it written.
A good insight to how the class system was viewed and to be honest, not much has changed! Read more
Published 2 months ago by El
5.0 out of 5 stars So many topics are relevant today.
Everyone should read this book so that they have a better understanding of the miners and poverty during the 1930s.
Published 2 months ago by button
5.0 out of 5 stars Magic
This is a lovely read. It brought back many memories and is still surprisingly up to date, a definite classic.
Published 2 months ago by Sylvester Hutton
5.0 out of 5 stars Orwell comments on how the poor lived
A realistic overview of the poor pre war and Orwell simply cuts through the politics as tells it the way it was. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr. R. A. Flisher
5.0 out of 5 stars Coal
Not fully read yet but would recommend it to all who use coal or bye products. It makes you realize what it was like for those who mined it , what it cost them and helps you to... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Brenda Potts
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