The Road to Wigan Pier Part 1
The Living and Working Conditions of the Industrial Poor in England
• Orwell begins with detailed discussion and visceral images of what it's really like to
work and live as a "proletariat" in a northern England coal mining town
Why this approach to focusing on coal mining and the lives of the workers?
• A strong contrast to Marx's more abstract and theoretical approach
1. Orwell says that this exploration "was necessary" for his approach to Socialism
because it forces people to take a position:
◦ before you can decide if you're in favor of it "you have got to decide whether
things at present are tolerable or not tolerable . . . "
2. Coal mining also offers the most dramatic illustration of Marx's core arguments about
problems of workers under advanced capitalism:
◦ "More than anyone else, perhaps, the miner can stand as the type of the manual
worker, not only because his work is so exaggeratedly awful, but also because it
is so vitally necessary and yet so remote from our experience,so invisible . . .
You and I and the editor of the Times Lit. Supp . . . all of us really woe the
comparative decency of our lives to poor drugs underground, blackened to the
eyes, with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward with arms
and belly muscles of steel."
Coal Mining as Allegory for the Economic Base
• We can read Orwell's depiction as a metaphor or allegorical portrait of Marx's theor