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Down and Out in Paris and London

Down and Out, œuvre, plongeur

orwell social narrative tramp

an autobiographical work by George Orwell, published in 1933. Down and Out was Orwell's first book, and its mixture of autobiographical insight, social criticism, and descriptive bravura make it an early index of the way his œuvre was to pull in a number of directions. The reflective asides on the social position of the Paris plongeur and of the British tramp are easily detached from a vigorous narrative of events, with occasional passages of dialogue that would not be out of place in a novel. At the centre of each of the two parts of the text is an appreciation of Orwell's companionship, first with Boris the Russian waiter, and then with Paddy the Irish tramp. In some ways the book is a study of the importance of friendship during Orwell's attempt to test his own endurance of harsh conditions. The characterization of Boris is particularly enthusiastic and Orwell's absorption in it is partly what turns the Parisian narrative into an account of an adventure rather than a pretext for social analysis. The London narrative has more campaigning purpose behind it and shows its author beginning to make inquiries about social structures and power relations in a manner that was to give his later projects their peculiar Orwellian stamp.

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