Summary and Analysis
More than any of his previous times on the streets, Jurgis is in no physical condition to improve his situation. Jurgis is mindful of all he had and all he has lost. In order to stay warm, he attends a political meeting. He falls asleep, and is tossed into the street because of his snoring. He starts begging and by chance meets a woman who attended his wedding. She gives him Marija's address.
Just as Jurgis arrives at a large house inquiring about Marija, the police arrive and storm the dwelling. Jurgis realizes the house is a brothel and Marija is now working as a prostitute. From Marija he learns of Stanislovas' death and that Marija is addicted to morphine. Marija also tells Jurgis that the family does not blame him for running away, though she personally thinks many of their problems could have been avoided if Jurgis had allowed Ona to continue with Connor. Jurgis is jailed with the other men but is released the next morning.
As with all naturalistic fiction (writing that depicts life as it truly is, not glossing over unsavory details), Sinclair documents the unsavory side of life in Chicago, presenting both life on the streets and life in a brothel. This chapter is the low point for Jurgis and his family. Jurgis' chance encounter with the "belle" from his wedding feast, who is not married but in a "good place," enables him to locate Marija.
Marija's descent into hell is the embodiment of Sinclair's major theme: that capitalism is a horrible system comprised of those who are users and those who are used. Women are victims who are forced into selling their bodies as a means of survival.
Marija voices this theme when she tells Jurgis, "When people are starving . . . and they have anything with a price, they ought to sell it." She accepts this as a matter of course, as the way of the world. Her words express Sinclair's view of capitalism.
But Jurgis does not readily accept this. He does not like the fact that Marija feels prostitution is her only option; though, for the first time, he realizes that is exactly what he had been doing to himself. During his night in jail, Jurgis contemplates the difficult existence his family has had in Chicago, remembering lost emotions, longing for a way out of his current predicament.
besiege to close in on; crowd around.
silk-stocking a member of the wealthy or aristocratic class.
verities principles, beliefs, etc., taken to be fundamentally and permanently true.
deshabille the state of being only partially dressed.
chafing being or becoming vexed, irritated, or impatient.