ABSTRACT

Eric Blair (George Orwell) (Orwell 1937) made several trips to visit coal mining families in northern England in preparation for The Road to Wigan Pier. From his seat on the train ride home after one of those trips he observed a young woman in her back yard, trying to free a clogged drainpipe:

She had a round pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who is twenty-five and looks forty, thanks to miscarriages and drudgery; and it wore . . . the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever seen. It struck me then that we are mistaken when we say that ‘It isn’t the same for them as it would be for us’, and that people bred in the slums can imagine nothing but the slums. For what I saw in her face was not the ignorant suffering of an animal. She knew well enough what was happening to her – understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold, on the slimy stones of a slum backyard, poking a stick up a foul drain-pipe.