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The Road to Wigan Pier (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 26 Apr 2001

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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: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,814 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


* 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.

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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

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Anita Treso on 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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Troy Parfitt on 20 Dec 2011
Format: Paperback
Published in 1937, George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier documents the grinding poverty of northern England, namely Lancashire and Yorkshire. As with Orwell's better-known and somewhat similar Down and Out in Paris and London, the author sets out to investigate the conditions of the poor by living among them and writing about his experiences. There is a chapter on coal miners and mines, and Orwell elucidates on the culture and mechanics of the industry; he goes down a mine to report, taking the reader with him. Orwell discusses unemployment (how it's misunderstood, etc.) and touches on how the upper classes view the lower ones.

That, more or less, makes for Part One, which I found engaging from a historical perspective as much as anything. It's meant to be a socioeconomic investigation (a description, a testimony), but because it's 75 years old, it's become a historical document. Part One isn't as lively or vivid as sections of Down and Out, perhaps because there's little dialogue and it lacks that diary-of-life-in-the-gutter quality. The conditions Orwell describes are awful, but, comparatively, there is a sense of detachment in the way he communicates them.

In Part Two, Orwell gears down, going from documentary to dissertation, and though historical, this part is timeless. "The English class system has outlived its usefulness," is the message he wants us to take from Part One, so what's the solution? The most obvious answer is socialism, but is socialism really the medicine society needs to take?

The section about machine-worship notwithstanding (time has proven Orwell, and probably many others, wrong about the future of machines and technology), Part Two makes for provocative, passionate, and insightful analysis.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 Feb 2000
Format: Paperback
This novel is split into two parts. The first being an interesting description of working class Northern Britain in the 1930s. Orwell visited, amongst other places, Wigan in Lancashire where he stayed with 'working class' people. This really opened my eyes to the hardship and sense of family and community which, to a certain extent, still exist in Working class areas of The North. The second section is Orwell's analysis of his experiences. He concentrates on the legendary British sense of class and displays his Socialist tendancies, from the point of view as a member of (in Orwell's words) "the upper lower middle class". I found the first part of this novel very interesting - I didn't want to put it down. However, the second part is a more difficult read, although still quite interesting - displaying Orwell's views on the classes.
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73 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Eric Anderson on 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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