The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists chronicles the tale of Frank Owen, a traveling socialist visionary making his way from town to town in the name of the socialist revolution. When spring arrives, Frank Owen decides to settle in the quiet town of Mugsborough, and joins a group of workmen who are painting the home of a wealthy neighborhood resident. Owen is quickly befriended by two fellow workmen: Bodgit and Scarpy. Scarpy is thin and nearly emaciated. When the men break for lunch Scarpy never has much to eat; only a bit of bread, or a biscuit and tea. Owen inquires as to why he's so thin and undernourished. Bodgit explains that his pay has been severely cut, and he barely has enough to feed his wife and three growing children at home.