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George Orwell

The Road to Wigan Pier

I was born into what you might describe as the lower-upper-middle class. The upper-middle class, which had its heyday in the eighties and nineties, with Kipling as its poet laureate, was a sort of mound of wreckage left behind when the tide of Victorian prosperity receded. Or perhaps it would be better to change the metaphor and describe it not as a mound but as a layer — the layer of society lying between £2000 and £300 a year: my own family was not far from the bottom. You notice that I define it in terms of money, because that is always the quickest way of making yourself understood. Nevertheless, the essential point about the English class-system is that it is not entirely explicable in terms of money. Roughly speaking it is a money-stratification, but it is also interpenetrated by a sort of shadowy caste-system; rather like a jerrybuilt modem bungalow haunted by medieval ghosts. Hence the fact that the upper-middle class extends or extended to incomes as low as £300 a year — to incomes, that is, much lower than those of merely middle-class people with no social pretensions. Probably there are countries where you can predict a man’s opinions from his income, but it is never quite safe to do so in England; you have always got to take his traditions into consideration as well ...

George Orwell, 1937
The Road to Wigan Pier
Part Two - Chapter 8

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Machine-readable version: O. Dag
Last modified on: 2015-09-24

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George Orwell
The Road to Wigan Pier
© 1974 Penguin Books


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