Summary and Analysis Chapter 12



Jurgis attempts to return to work, but the pain of a pulled tendon is unbearable. Jurgis is unable to work for two more months. During this time a major snowstorm strikes, preventing Ona and Stanislovas from getting to work. Attempting to do so, Stanislovas freezes his hands, permanently ruining the joints in several fingers. From this point on, Jurgis must beat the boy in order to get him to go to work.

In the spring, Jonas suddenly disappears. The loss of his income convinces Jurgis that two more of Elzbieta's sons must quit school and go to work selling newspapers. Ona is deteriorating both physically and emotionally, but Jurgis is unable to recognize this or respond to her need for reassurance of his love for her.

When Jurgis is finally strong enough to work again, he no longer has a position to return to so he joins the ranks of the unemployed. Now, however, he is no longer a strapping young man and isn't as employable.


Chapter 12 illustrates that cheating exists at all levels of business, from the owners and workers in the big companies to the young boys selling papers. Capitalism and cheating exist hand in hand.

Jonas' disappearance can be accounted for in one of two ways. He may be a victim of an industrial accident and subsequent cover-up, or he may, in all likelihood, have just left. In Packingtown, having a family is a curse, not a blessing, and Jonas can find more success on his own, so it is more quite possible that Jonas abandoned his family.

In addition to having been injured on the job, Jurgis is no longer the brawny young man he once was, and the industry that weakened and practically destroyed him no longer wants him. Jurgis searches in vain for any sort of employment, but he is no longer a viable candidate.


penury lack of money, property, or necessities; extreme poverty.

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