Orwell and Paddy try for jobs as sandwich men but they find a long line of other prospective employees and are soon told there is no work for them. They then spend several days of idleness in the basement of the lodging house with Orwell reading newspapers and Paddy bemoaning his fate. Paddy is to be pitied, Orwell contends, partially because he is ignorant and has an aversion to learning. He wants only to work, and, when unemployed, he is miserable and purposeless.
Many readers would likely judge Paddy for his aversion to education, but Orwell is clear-eyed in his assessment of his friend. Some men, he argues, are built for work, and Paddy is one such man. That he cannot find employment is his tragedy. Idleness does not suit him. He is not lazy, only unfortunate, and there are thousands of men like Paddy all over London.
While Orwell and Paddy lounge in a lodging house, a slumming party, or group of well-off people eager to insert themselves among the poor, pays a visit. This party, made up of three sleekly-dressed Christians, invades the lodging house and holds a religious service that the tenants ignore. Orwell finds out from Bozo that this same party comes to the lodging house once a month, thanks in part to the influence they have with a local police deputy. It’s fascinating, Orwell concludes, that once a man’s income falls below a certain level, people assume it’s their right to preach at and pray over him.
This slumming party makes no attempt to get to know the men they pray for. There is no meaningful interaction between the Christian visitors and the lodging house tenants; the visitors come to the lodging house solely to satisfy their own consciences. The only sin the tenants have committed is that of being poor. The Christians, on the other hand, are portrayed as vain and self-satisfied hypocrites.
With the loan from B. dwindling to nothing, Orwell and Paddy go to a church near King’s Cross Station that offers free tea to tramps once a week. The tea, of course, comes at a price. The tramps must submit to a long, fire-and-brimstone church service, led by Brother Bootle. While he delivers his sermon, the tramps heckle him mercilessly. Orwell is surprised by the scene. Tramps are usually much more cowed and quiet during religious services. The only explanation he can come up with for the tramps’ unruly behavior is that, for once, they outnumbered the worshippers. Tramps hate those who give them charity, Orwell concludes, and will show their feelings when they have an opportunity.
This scene is in direct dialogue with the one before. Now the emboldened majority, the men seeking charity abuse the minister who is “preaching at” them. On one hand, Orwell suggests that the scene is an ugly and distasteful one—the tramps out of control and disrespectful. On the other hand, Christians who expect something in return for their charity are failing to follow the tenets of their own faith, and are therefore perhaps deserving of some rebuke.
Able to afford exactly one more night’s lodging (thanks to Paddy’s petty thievery), Paddy and Orwell travel to the Embankment where a clergyman is said to distribute meal tickets to tramps once a week. Unlike Brother Bootle, this clergyman distributes his charity without preaching or judging, and the men respect and revere him accordingly. When Orwell and Paddy go to cash in their meal tickets, though, they’re cheated out of their full value, and Orwell argues that this kind of swindling will continue as long as charitable organizations give out meal tickets instead of food.
Finally, having met with a number of religious do-gooders, Orwell and Paddy encounter true Christian charity. This clergyman expects nothing from the men he is helping and earns the tramps’ regard. Unfortunately, though, good intentions are not enough to counter a rotten system in which shopkeepers profit off the suffering of the poor.
Back at the lodging house, Orwell and Paddy loaf around. After a while, Bozo shows up, a little short of the money he needs for a night’s lodging. He decides to sell his last razor blade to make up the difference, and he manages, thanks to the sale, to pay for a bed. Orwell is shocked later to find Bozo laughing over something: Bozo tells Orwell that he forgot to shave before selling his razor. Even though Bozo is always on the verge of starvation and he spends most of his days limping around London and making only enough money to survive, he still manages to have a sense of humor about his situation, and Orwell can’t help but admire him for that.
Bozo’s selling of his razor before he thinks to give himself one last shave is another example of the ironic nature of living in poverty. When every day is a struggle to make ends meet, a razor blade could mean the difference between sleeping in a bed and spending the night on the street. A clean-shaven appearance gives a man the air of respectability, but the poor often cannot afford such luxuries, just as they can’t afford the kind of clothing that would help them secure gainful employment.