A Cab at the Door by V. S. Pritchett

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Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Almost all important English male writers of this era attended a university, or could have done so. Pritchett’s formal education stopped when he was fifteen; he achieved his status by himself. Many of these writers have written personal accounts: J. B. Priestley, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene. Pritchett’s is unique, not only in that it is notably unself-centered and has no ax to grind, but also in that it tells about a truly lower-class life. Unlike George Orwell, Pritchett lived naturally among the poor. His experience enabled him to rival Charles Dickens and Arnold Bennett in some of his lower-class scenes; his rendition of office life resembles those in the early novels of H. G. Wells and in D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers (1913).

Although one reviewer called reading this volume a “depressing experience” because Pritchett appeared to say that his “childhood was not worth having,” most critics agree that A Cab at the Door is exceedingly evocative, captivating, and well written. One critic called it “one of the half-dozen autobiographies of our time which are works of art.”