The book has two parts; the 1st part is a sociological investigation where Orwell lives a ‘fly on the wall’-existence among the miners of an industrial town in northern England. He wants to experience life of the real working-class life first hand. A class whom he and his fellow half-bourgeois socialists claim to fight and care for.
The 2nd part is a argument for how and why socialism is failing and what to do to get it back on track again.
What stays with me is the account of the former; the unemployment, the poverty, the filth; the self-limiting mindset of the deprived, and the horrible working conditions of the mines. But also Orwell’s honest, sober and often beautiful worded observations.
📝 “..the place is like hell, or at any rate like my own mental picture of hell. Most of the things one imagines in hell are there — heat, noise. Confusion, darkness foul air, and, above all, unbearably cramped space.”
The working conditions in the mines made me feel sick.
📝 How disconnected isn’t my work life from the miner of the Industrial era? Me with my Xbox ONE Dev-kit on my adjustable standing desk and my free lattes at the touch of a bottom? Not to mention the free massage? You know, we NEED them, because office work is HARD on your body! right?! 🤷♂️
📝 Why can’t the bourgeois see themselves as the equals of the working class?
“The lower class smells”, Orwell concludes “It is queer how seldom this is admitted.”
A physical feeling like smell is harder to overcome than the other dislikes he argues.
We would be wise to attempt to isolate the qualities in people we look up to and cultivate them in ourselves. I admire Orwell’s willingness to immerse himself in the working class life and his willingness to change his mind. I want adopt this trait further in my own life, but I’m not sure how to go about it…yet.
When I close the books for 2020, one of the images that will linger in my mind is the image of miner walking for miles in the dark cramped space of the mine to his designated spot for the day.
I found this book so powerful and humbling. A catalyst for personal reflection. A remarkably bold and honest book.
For more great books and reviews, check out my reading lists!