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Customer Review

79 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that defies you to shut your eyes to reality ... past and present, 29 Aug. 2007
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This review is from: The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This makes powerful reading. My sense from the start was that the story wasn't fiction outside the names of those peopling it, but in fact the author's own experience of life endured by the working class in England at the turn of 1900. That in itself made it fascinating.

At times I felt the author's rants about the evils of capitalism and the working class being their own worst enemy tiresome (if true), but then I realised his frustration with the mindset of those he spent his working life with would have made him feel the need to rave. What could be worse than spending your every working day in the company of miserable forelock-tuggers, men who at once idolised and hated their masters, and hated themselves even more. We see much of this frustration in the character Owen and his contempt for his fellow workers for regarding their state of starvation and wretched poverty as a privilege and are fiercely committed to preserving the system that keeps them downtrodden. Kudos to the reader who wrote: 'Not only is capitalism unsustainable but immoral.' One need only look at how far downhill the world had gone (as capitalism has gained a surer foothold) in the hundred years since this book was written to know that. More than ever people find no shame in stepping on (or even stomping on) each other to gain an economic advantage.

When a used-to-be Socialist tells Barrington 'enlightenment will never be brought about by arguing with people,' I couldn't have agreed more. While Barrington took this on board as dishearteningly true, delightfully, it didn't take the fight out of him. If one is passionate about changing injustice, even against the odds, one can't help but go on fighting the fight to inform and educate others. This book will stay with me for a long time, especially its heroes Owen and Barrington. It's tragic that its author died (apparently in poverty) before its publication and never got to know that people enjoyed reading what he evidently put so much passion into writing. If Tressell were alive today he might weep to see how far down the road of insatiable greed Capitalism has taken more of the world than ever. Who can say if Socialism is the answer to a better world, but it seems to me an alternative to how we now live needs pondering.
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