The Road to Wigan Pier is a graphic and biting polemic that still holds a fierce political relevance and impact despite being written over half a century ago. First published in 1937 it charts George Orwell's observations of working-class life during the 1930s in the industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire. His depictions of social injustice and rising unemployment, the dangerous working conditions in the mines amid general squalor and hunger also bring together many of the ideas to explored in his later works and novels.
George Orwell looked for the pier but was unable to find it ( George Orwell, BBC Overseas Service broadcast, 2 December 1943); in his book, he wrote ..and even the spot where it used to stand is no longer certain (The Road to Wigan Pier, Ch 4). Orwell couldnt find the original pier because it had been demolished in 1929, with the iron from the tippler mechanism being sold as scrap for £34. A replica was built in 1986 by students of Wigan and Leigh College.
I’m not certain if it has anything to do with what you study in college, or the type of person you already are (of course the two are not mutually exclusive by any means) but speaking for myself, I suspect that if you are a certain age and not already convinced that God is White and the GOP is Right (and anyone under the age of twenty-one who is certain of either of those things is already a lost cause, intellectually and morally), reading a book like The Road To Wigan Pier changes you. Reading a book like The Jungle changes you. Books like Madame Bovary change you. Books like The Second Sex change you. Books like Notes From Underground change you. Books like Invisible Man change you. Then you might start reading poetry and come to appreciate what William Carlos Williams meant when he wrote “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” These works alter your perception of the big picture: cause and effect, agency vs. incapacity and history vs. ideology.
This is a searing account of George Orwell's observations of working-class life in the bleak industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire in the 1930s, the Road to Wigan Pier is a brilliant and bitter polemic that has lost none of its political impact over time. His graphically unforgettable descriptions of social injustice, cramped slum housing, dangerous mining conditions, squalor, hunger and growing unemployment are written with unblinking honesty, fury and great humanity. It crystallized the ideas that would be found in Orwell's later works and novels, and remains a powerful portrait of poverty, injustice and class divisions in Britain. Published with an introduction by Richard Hoggart in Penguin Modern Classics. "It is easy to see why the book created and still creates so sharp an impact...exceptional immediacy, freshness and vigour, opinionated and bold...Above all, it is a study of poverty and, behind that, of the strength of class-divisions." (Richard Hoggart).