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Essay/Term paper: "down and out paris and london"

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Essays

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"Down and Out Paris and London"

The story of "Down And Out In Paris And London" deals with the author's
experience with tramps and the poverty stricken in Paris and London in the
1920's. He lives with them on equal terms and suffers the same hardships and
Orwell shows great compassion for the plight of the poor and feels that
society is very unfair in their criticism and judgment of the tramps and beggars
that roam the streets. He feels that these people are victims of their
circumstances. To be belligerent towards tramps is no fairer than to be that way
towards invalids and the handicapped, in that they are that way not because they
want to be, but because of their circumstances. In this essay we will explore
the characteristics and personality of a person who lives below the poverty line.
Through the author we get a very keen insight into this area of human
Orwell feels that beggars and tramps have unfair labels and stereotypes
attached to them. For example, most people think of tramps as being dangerous.
About that Orwell says:

"Quite apart from experience, one can say a priori that very few tramps are
dangerous, because if they were dangerous they would be treated accordingly. A
casual ward will often admit a hundred tramps in one night, and these are
handled by a staff of at most three porters. A hundred ruffians could not be
controlled by three unarmed men. Indeed, when one sees how ramps let themselves
be bullied by the work house officials, it is obvious that they are the most
docile, broken-spirited creatures imaginable. "(p. 204)

About the term "drunkard" Orwell disagrees also saying:

"Or take the idea that all tramps are drunkards -- an idea ridiculous on the
face of it. No doubt many tramps would drink if they got the chance, but in the
nature of things they cannot get the chance. At this moment a pale watery stuff
called beer is seven pence a pint in England. To be drunk on it would cost at
least half a crown, and a man who can command half a crown at all often is not a
tramp." (p. 204)

I am not sure that I necessarily agree with this… I do not believe that
all tramps are dangerous. I do believe that when one reaches such a desperate
level of poverty that he would be tempted to do unscrupulous acts to alleviate
his situation.
As for all tramps being drunkards, I would not say all, but I do think
there is a segment of these people (as there are in any social level) of those
who live to drink. There are those who will use whatever handout they get to
satisfy this need to drink.
Orwell believes that poverty frees people from ordinary standards of
behavior, that they take on rather eccentric characteristics and give up trying
to be normal. Having lived the life of poverty he discusses the redeeming
features of poverty—the fact that it annihilates the future. In other words,
without money, one does not need to think about the future and just take one day
at a time. Orwell says: "Within certain limits, it is actually true that the
less money you have, the less you worry. When you have a hundred francs in the
world you are libel to the most craven panics. When you have only three francs
in the world you are quite indifferent; for three francs will feed you till
tomorrow, and you cannot think further that that." (p. 16)
He says that another feeling associated with poverty is a feeling of
consolation. Somewhat of a relief that you have finally reached the stage of
being down and out and are surviving.
Another idea is that people tend to think that poor people are
fundamentally different from the rich, as if they are another race. Not true,
says Orwell In reality there is no such difference, that the rich and poor are
different only by their incomes. He expresses this by saying: "The average
millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit." (p. 121)
Orwell discusses the powerful effect that one's clothes has on one's
personality and how they affect how one is perceived. Once one puts on the
clothes of a tramp, Orwell discovered, one is put in an entirely different world.
To begin with, one feels degraded and shameful and one is treated the same way.
People react to you differently and women especially have a strong reaction to
a man's clothes.

"When a badly dressed man passes them they shudder away from him with a quite
frank movement of disgust, as though he were a dead cat." (p. 130)Orwell
compares the feeling of the first day in tramps' clothes to being in a jail cell
saying "You might feel the same shame, irrational but very real, your first
night in prison." (p. 130)

I certainly felt that after reading George Orwell's experiences in "Down
And Out In Paris And London" that I have a better understanding of people who
live at this level of society. I have probably been too quick to brush them off
and attach a certain stereotype to them. Now I understand better their
circumstances and their way of thinking. The Author explains the personality of
a beggar or tramp and I can definitely sympathize more. As George Orwell said
"That is a beginning" (p. 216)


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