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In the Roman slum of Pigneto, a young drifter called Accattone, or "Sponger," cheerfully lives off the earnings of Maddalena, his prostitute mistress, all the while flatly refusing to do a day's work. When Maddalena is arrested and jailed, Accattone, after selling all his possessions to keep from starving, decides to return to his wife, Ascenza, who earns a meager living in a bottle-cleaning factory, and their child. His father-in-law throws him out, however, and Accattone steals his child's religious medal in order to buy a present for Stella, a virginal blonde he has recently met. After reluctantly falling in love, he offers to procure for her if she will become a prostitute. Stella agrees but flees in horror from her first client, and Accattone is forced to take a job as a scrap metal loader. He seems on the verge of participating in conventional society; but exhaustion from working and his distaste for a regular job that pays only starvation wages cause him to quit at the close of the first day. Meanwhile, Maddalena, having learned that Accattone has a new woman, informs the authorities that he has corrupted a minor. Now under police surveillance, Accattone attempts a robbery and, as he tries to escape on a motorcycle, he crashes into a passing truck and is killed.