George Orwell e il linguaggio della povertà. Esperienza autobiografica e strategie della finzione


Abstract – From an autobiographical point of view, Orwell wrote Down and Out in Paris and London e The Road to Wigan Pier under the urgent psychological necessity to expiate his guilt for having served in Burma in the Indian Imperial Police and having been complicit with the British government’s many crimes against the colonised population. Despite his wish to be as truthful as possible in describing his experience of poverty in the underworld of the two capital cities as well as in the mining districts of Britain, Down and Out and The Road to Wigan Pier are far from being realistic renditions of Orwell’s life among the poor. Indeed, while recording the state of England in a time of mass unemployment, he could not help encoding his immersion in poverty into a fictional text in which his literary imagination takes the upper hand over the documentary and empirical aspects of his investigation into human degradation, squalor and slum life. From a linguistic perspective, Orwell’s lexical choices are often founded on negative hyperbole and exaggeration, while the phases of his actual trip are narrated in keeping with a novelistic re-writing of the real events and phenomena which he confronted in both books.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v21p159

Keywords: George Orwell; Poverty; Sense of Guilt; Realistic Language; Fictionalisation.


Beadle G.B. 1975, George Orwell and the Victorian Radical Tradition, in “Albion” 7 [4], pp. 287-299.

Beadle G.B. 1978, George Orwell’s Literary Studies of Poverty in England, in “Twentieth Century Literature” 24 [2], pp. 188-201.

Clarke B. 2008, “Noble Bodies”: Orwell, Miners, and Masculinity, in “English Studies” 89 [4], pp. 427-446.

Colls R. 2013, George Orwell: English Rebel, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Crick B. 1980, George Orwell: A Life, Penguin, Harmondsworth.

Ferrara F. 1981, La lotta contro il Leviatano: L’analisi dei sistemi culturali e dei conflitti fra individuo e potere nell’opera narrativa di George Orwell, Tullio Pironti, Napoli.

Gissing G. 2004, Charles Dickens: A Critical Study, in James S.J. (ed.), Collected Works of George Gissing on Charles Dickens, vol. II, Grayswood Press, Greyswood, pp. 17-119.

Hopley C. 1984, Orwell’s Language of Waste Land and Trench, in “College Literature” 11 [1], pp. 59-70.

Lodge D. 1977, The Modes of Modern Writing: Metaphor, Metonymy, and the Typology of Modern Literature, Edward Arnold, London.

London J. 1903, The People of the Abyss, Macmillan, New York.

Mayhew H. 2012, Landon Labour and the London Poor; ed. by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Oxford University Press, Oxford/New York.

Meyers J. 1975, A Reader’s Guide to George Orwell, Thames and Hudson, London.

Orwell G. 1971a, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell; ed. by Orwell S. and Angus I., Penguin, Harmondsworth.

Orwell G. 1971b, The Road to Wigan Pier, Penguin, Harmondsworth.

Orwell G. 1974, Down and Out in Paris and London, Penguin, Harmondsworth.

Pagetti C. 1994, Il diario e il microfono: il pianeta di George Orwell, Tirrenia Stampatori, Torino.

Rees R. 1961, George Orwell Fugitive From the Camp of Victory, Secker & Warburg, London.

Rogers P. 1979, Robinson Crusoe, George Allen and Unwin, London.

Shaw B. 1917, Major Barbara, Brentano’s, New York.

Shelden M. 1992, Orwell: The Authorised Biography, Minerva, London.

Stansky P. and Abrahams W. 1974, The Unknown Orwell, Paladin, St Albans.

Woodcock G. 1984, Henry Mayhew and the Undiscovered Country of the Poor, in “The Sewanee Review” 92 [4], pp. 556-573.

Full Text: pdf


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.