“Money has become the grand test of virtue. By this test beggars fail, and for this they are despised. If one could earn even ten pounds a week at begging, it would become a respectable profession immediately” — George Orwell
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Orwell is criticizing the idea that wealth or income is used as the primary measure of a person’s worth or virtue in society. He argues that by this standard, beggars are seen as lacking virtue since they do not earn a wage. Orwell suggests that if begging could earn someone a decent salary, it would suddenly be seen as a respectable profession. Overall, he is pointing out the flaws in judging someone’s character or value based primarily on their financial situation.
Orwell is saying that under a system where money is considered the primary test of virtue and character, beggars would be seen as failing or lacking virtue. This is because beggars, by definition, do not earn money from their work and rely on others’ charity. Orwell is criticizing the idea that one’s worth or morality can be judged mainly based on their income or financial success. By pointing out that even begging could become respectable “if one could earn ten pounds a week at it,” he shows how arbitrary and flawed it is to use money as the main measure of a person’s virtue.