Summary and Analysis Chapter 23



After spending the summer as a hobo, Jurgis returns to Chicago in the fall. He finds work digging tunnels for telephone lines; in actuality, he is digging tunnels for freight trains. Jurgis breaks his arm after only a few weeks on the job and must spend two weeks in the hospital. After he is released from the hospital, Jurgis once again is out on the street in the middle of winter with no means of survival. When his money runs out, he is forced to become a beggar, but he does not do well.


Jurgis returns to Chicago a smarter man. Without hesitation, he lies to the foreman, claiming to be from Kansas City. Soon he spends his time working underground during the day and visiting saloons at night. True to form, his good luck doesn't last. And once again fate causes misfortune in his life; this time Jurgis breaks his arm.

Again it is Christmastime, and spending the holiday alone in a hospital bed is ironically Jurgis' best Christmas in America. Only after he is released from the hospital does the reality of his situation hit him, and soon he is destitute once more. As Jurgis roams the streets as a beggar, he becomes class conscious for the first time in his life. He also begins to become suspicious of religion. Jurgis astutely wonders what the evangelists really know about sin and suffering, realizing that the poor come to meetings only to have shelter from the cold.


camaraderie loyalty and a warm, friendly feeling among comrades.

vice evil or wicked conduct or behavior; depravity or corruption.

mendicant person who begs for money, food, clothes, etc., given to the poor.

harlot prostitute.

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