Summary and Analysis
Although Jurgis is working harder than ever, the process of "speeding up," the hiring of more workers, and a reduction in wages earn him a net loss income. At this time Jurgis learns that all the packers, a term used to refer to the owners and management, conspire together in something known as the Beef Trust.
Marija cares little for this and worries only about herself. She opens a savings account, but is extremely leery of the entire banking system. Panic and an ensuing bank run causes her to miss two days of work to withdraw her money. The run ends up having nothing to do with the bank.
Before they know it, winter has returned again, and the family feels utterly unprepared. Jurgis takes control of the situation as best he can, escorting Ona and carrying Stanislovas to work. Unfortunately, Jurgis sprains his ankle and misses three weeks of work. During this time Ona, unbeknownst to Jurgis, must borrow from their meager savings in order to survive. The only solace Jurgis finds during this difficult time is spending time with his son.
Two important themes dominate Chapter 11. The first states that accidents determine fate. Through no fault of his own, Jurgis is out of work for three weeks. It is an accident that he sprains his ankle, but nonetheless, his entire family suffers for it. One financial crisis follows another, all independent of each other and each seemingly more calamitous than the previous one. A related theme demonstrates that a willingness to work is not always enough. From the onset, Jurgis' motto has been "I will work harder." He has been working harder and harder, but realizing his goals less and less. The corrupt nature of the meatpacking industry stacks the deck against him and all hard workers, for the only ones reaping the benefits of increased work levels are the owners.
A comparison to Lithuania in this chapter is in the food they eat: In the forest, they ate real sausage; here they ingest imitation filler. Once again, the old cliché about "the grass is always greener" comes true. Jurgis and his family did not recognize the advantages and benefits of what they had in Lithuania.
As the months pass by and election time rolls around, Jurgis realizes that selling his vote to the democrats is unethical, but he does it anyway. His attitude is not one of indifference but rather of survival. It really does not matter whether he sells his vote or not, because the democrats will win. But if this opportunity presents a chance for Jurgis to help his family, the ends justify the means. When ethics battles economics, economics wins every time.
superfluity a quantity or number beyond what is needed.
inexorably relentlessly; unalterable.
Prometheus in Greek mythology, a Titan who steals fire from heaven for the benefit of mankind. To punish him, Zeus chains him to a rock where a vulture comes each day to eat his liver, which grows back each night.