Orwell here intentionally gets drunk and charades in public to get locked up, but as it turned out, is only locked up for forty eight hours. The tone of the piece is humorous, conveyed in his characteristic distanced and documentarian point of view that shows the reader where his outward focus is; A) How power is exerted on a micro-level, and B) How the social underlings operate and interact with one another.
First things first, the first characteristic--How power is exerted on a micro-level--demonstrates the intricate power paradigms that operate so ambiently that they are often ignored and assumed. Like a phone-call on a birthday. No big deal...until you don't do it. These things work subtly, lubricating the mechanisms at work. Tying this down to Clink, getting locked up provides insight into how the police deal with the drunkards, the people who push wheel barrows in the middle of the street, and loitering with intent to do burglary, etc. These small, petty "crimes" are generally non-violent, though are chastised because they exhibit behavior that is a flight from the norm, disrupting the ambient peaceful operation of the society. This is why Orwell didn't go out and kill anybody, or burn down a house; these elicit cookie-cutter legal consequences. Drunk in public? The key to those three words are the last two: in public. Let us not spoil the public's perception of civilization, and Orwell knew exactly how to poke this social compulsion to conformity.
The second spot where his focus lies is--as usual--on the interactions between the tramps, vagrants, and social underlings. His addiction to eavesdropping is second in impressiveness only to his ability to recant the full conversation days later. The rawness and simplicity of this piece reminds me of the movie Pulp Fiction, and how normal people (not deranged, sick, or religious zealots) doing simple things can often reap abnormal (and funny) consequences. Like on page 29, inmate Charlie answers why he's incarcerated: "You wouldn't 'ardly believe it, boy. I was narked--narked by my own sister! Yes, my own fucking sister. My sister's a cow if ever there was one. She got married to a religious maniac, and 'e's so fucking religious that she's got fifteen kids now. Well, it was 'im put 'er up to narking me. But I got it back on 'em I can tell you. What do you think I done first thing, when I come out of the stir [prison]? I bought a 'ammer, and I went round to my sister's 'ouse and smashes 'er piano to fucking matchwood. I did. 'There', I says, 'that's what you get for narking me! You mare', I says" etc. etc. etc." Charlie's sister probably had no issue with his crime, but acted that way due to an overbearing husband. Sound familiar? This type of scenario isn't unique to 1930's England; we still hear about (and get stuck in, like Charlie) scenarios like this all the time.
He slides in one interesting observation on page 25, then drops the subject completely as if to keep his focus on the actual prisoners and not the abstract tenets of government: "One remark made by these men struck me--I heard it from almost every prisoner who was up for a serious offence. It was, "It's not the prison I mind, it's losing my job." This is, I believe, symptomatic of the dwindling power of the law compared with that of the capitalist." There is so much in this paragraph, but he pulls what I think of as an Orwellian Tease and hints at profundity then changes topic. Even as an anti-capitalist, Orwell knows that capitalism and law are on a tether, and that if capitalism is to be practiced, laws must fade into gray areas, because the capitalistic free market is based in flexibility, maneuverability, and variations on a theme.
Upon his release, Orwell heads home and attempts get locked up again. Unfortunately, as put on page 30, his wishes went unrealized: "During the next few days I made several more attempts to get into trouble by begging under the noses of police, but I seemed to bear a charmed life--no one took any notice of me...The trip, therefore, was more or less of a failure, but I have recorded it as a fairly interesting experience."
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