Summary and Analysis
Around Thanksgiving, Ona doesn't return home one night after work. Jurgis goes to her factory the next morning to wait for her. When she arrives, Ona explains that she couldn't make it home because of the storm and spent the night with a friend. A month later Ona again does not return home, but this time Jurgis is not concerned until he stops by her friend's house only to find that Ona did not spend the night there nor had she ever done so.
Her fellow employees know the truth but refuse to reveal it to Jurgis. By chance he notices Ona on a streetcar and follows her home. He demands to know the truth about her whereabouts, and Ona reveals to Jurgis that she has been to her forelady's house. It takes Jurgis a moment to realize exactly what this means. When he finally understands, he finds out that Connor, one of her bosses, has been taking her downtown, using threats against her family as leverage to make Ona comply with his wishes.
Jurgis storms from the house enraged, and rushes to the plant. There he finds Connor and attacks him, attempting to strangle him. Many men are needed to pull Jurgis off of Connor, and eventually Jurgis is taken to the company police station to await a patrol wagon.
Chapter 15 provides readers with the first and only meaningful exchange between Jurgis and Ona. Jurgis, in a rage, confronts his wife about her deceptions and lies. Although the scene borders on melodrama, readers can empathize, experiencing both Jurgis' rage and Ona's fears. Unwittingly, Jurgis is as cruel to Ona as Connor had been. Ona, the weaker one, again submits to the will of anyone who is stronger than she is.
As soon as Ona reveals that the unrelenting economic pressure forced her into prostitution, Jurgis becomes unglued. His attack on Connor is both understandable and unwise. Physically, Connor is no match for Jurgis, but in Packingtown, power depends more on connections and money than it does on brute strength.
This entire incident illustrates the connection between coincidence, chance, and fate. Connor victimizes Ona from the onset of her employment. Any number of possibilities could have prevented the truth from being revealed: Ona might have been able to make it home either night, or Jurgis might not have attempted to find her, or Connor may have grown tired of her. Regardless of the "what ifs" and "could have beens," the truth did come out, with devastating results. This scene demonstrates that in the jungle of Packingtown, characters are not only prey for beasts, they are bestial themselves. Jurgis' attack on Connor is a demonstration of his most animalistic behavior yet.
bullocks young bulls.
tempest a violent storm with high winds.