The story in London is different. It is not a riotous fight for survival but the most miserable and pointless tramp from spike to spike, living off bread, tea and dog-ends. It is one of the bleakest things I’ve ever read. I would happily concede the portrait of poverty in Paris as garishly overcoloured if only to believe London were charcoaled dull for effect. Can life be so relentlessly depressing?
The only positive moments are the hilarious church service scene – condescending laughter at Christians is something even a tramp can afford – and Bozo, the self-sufficient and indifferent artistic genius.
Work makes the difference. There was work in Paris, but none in London. Because George O set out to tramp in England? Or was there simply more work in Paris? In any case, it is the worklessness that George O shows to be so grim, starving men (here) of their ability to support a family.
“The problem is how to turn a poor, half-alive vagrant into a self-respecting human being. A mere increase of comfort cannot do this. Even if the casual wards become positively luxurious (they never will), a tramp’s life would still be wasted. He would still be a pauper, cut off from marriage and a home life, and a dead loss to the community. What is needed is to depauperize him, and this can only be done by finding him work – not work for the sake of working, but work of which he can enjoy the benefit.”