Summary and Analysis
Each season brings a new catastrophe, forcing Jurgis and his family to fight just to barely survive. In the spring they learn that in addition to the mortgage and the taxes, they have to pay insurance on their property. The messy spring rain gives way to the stifling summer heat. Marija gets her job back when the factory re-opens, only to lose it due to her union activity. Ona is pregnant, so it is imperative for Marija to find a new job. She reluctantly accepts work as a beef trimmer, a job she would have refused earlier. Ona discovers that her boss operates a brothel downtown and many decent girls lose their positions at the factory to prostitutes. Jurgis insists on having a male doctor instead of a midwife when Ona gives birth to their son, who is named Antanas — after the child's grandfather, Dede Antanas. Jurgis is unable to see much of his son because of the long hours he works, and Ona must return to work after missing only a week, in order not to lose her position. Ona, who has never been very strong or healthy, never fully recovers from this experience and suffers for the rest of her days with the same ailments that affect most of the factory women, for all women return to work too quickly after giving birth to fully recover.
Chapter 10 reads as a case history of abuse. Sinclair provides neither action nor dialogue. Life continues to be extremely difficult, but Jurgis can do nothing to change this. The one bright spot in Jurgis' life is the birth of his son.
Marija lands a job as beef trimmer, making half the amount of the man she replaces. Her character, possessing the "muscles of a man," continues to contrast with Ona, a weak woman who grows weaker after the birth of her son. Ona's weakened condition continues throughout the remainder of the book, foreshadowing her untimely death.
Forced to return to work one week after giving birth, Ona is not able to be a mother to her child. This illustrates the destructive force capitalism is on the family unit. Because he must work long hours on the killing floor, Jurgis is unable to be a father to his child. In fact, he seldom sees little Antanas. According to Sinclair, the very nature of capitalism threatens the integrity of the family.
Sinclair also uses a seemingly throwaway line, "she [Ona] did not tell half of her story at home" to foreshadow the fate not only of Ona but of Marija — their forced prostitution. Another important, naturalistic theme states that a technological society drives women to prostitution. Both strong and weak women eventually turn to the oldest profession — satisfying the carnal whims of men — in order to make the money necessary to keep their families together. Women do not turn to prostitution because they want to, but because they're forced to.
bog wet spongy ground, characterized by decaying mosses that form peat; a small marsh or swamp.
purgatory a state or place in which, in Roman Catholicism and other Christian doctrine, those who have died in the grace of God expiate their sins by suffering.
furies in Greek and Roman mythology, the three terrible female spirits with snaky hair who punish the doers of unavenged crimes.
bawdyhouse a house of prostitution.