Summary and Analysis
Unable to remain drunk very long on the pittance he has, Jurgis returns to the widow's to find out that Elzbieta has begged enough money to pay for a funeral mass for Ona. Elzbieta uses baby Antanas as leverage as she encourages Jurgis to find a job, but he is refused a job even at the fertilizer plant. Finally he is offered a job, but when he reports for work, the boss tells him that he cannot use him. Jurgis is blacklisted.
After weeks of unemployment, a chance meeting with a former union associate leads Jurgis to a job in the harvester works. Jurgis is heartened by his new job and begins to make plans for the future, only to be laid off ten days later.
With Ona's death, the only thing Jurgis lives for is his son, Antanas. True to his character, Jurgis diligently looks for gainful employment. Recognizing his responsibilities as a father, he even returns to the fertilizer plant, but to no avail. More potential workers exist in Packingtown than do jobs; therefore, packers have the ability to blacklist perceived troublemakers. This is another way the owners exercise power over the laborers.
Getting a job outside the city seems to be an ideal situation, because working conditions are better there. Working as a harvester seems better than working in a factory. But work as a harvester is seasonal. When Jurgis is laid off, he realizes he is still at the whim of a capitalistic system that does not care for its employees, only its profits.
cur a dog of mixed breed; a mongrel.
angleworm an earthworm: so called because it is used for fishing bait.
treason betrayal of trust or faith.
blacklist a list of persons who have been censured and who are being discriminated against or refused employment.
valise a piece of hand luggage.
philanthropist a person, especially a wealthy one, who is interested in the general human welfare, especially as shown in large-scale gifts to charities.
monopoly exclusive control of a commodity or service in a given market, or control that makes possible the fixing of prices and the virtual elimination of free competition.