Summary and Analysis Chapter 4



Jurgis reports for work but does not know how to enter the plant. Hours later, once inside, he sweeps waste parts into the vat below the killing floors. The work is hard but Jurgis is glad to be working. Jonas is granted an interview, and Marija finds a job; Jurgis decides Ona and Elzbieta will not have to work. Things are tough but will seemingly be all right.

Then Jurgis receives a flyer advertising a house for sale. The family is lured by the flyer's claim that paying rent is a waste of money, and they desire a house of their own. Although the house they see is not exactly what they expected, the agent soon convinces them of its merits, and a lengthy debate ensues. Eventually, Jurgis makes the decision to buy it.

Jurgis is unable to complete the transaction because he cannot leave his job at the killing floor, so Ona and Teta Elzbieta must meet with the sales agent instead. Szedvilas offers what little assistance he can. Some confusion about the wording of the contract exists, but Elzbieta proceeds with the transaction. Afterwards, when Jurgis hears of the potential complication, he becomes enraged and storms out, threatening to kill the agent. Only after consulting another lawyer is Jurgis somewhat appeased.


Jurgis has a job and doesn't understand why others aren't equally satisfied with just being able to work. He is able to get his first job rather easily because of his size and strength (however, when he loses these attributes, he has a hard time finding a job).

Sinclair continues to contrast Marija with Ona. Marija is a go-getter who is able to find a job, while Ona stays home with the children. Marija gets her job, however, only through the misfortune of another. This is the first of many examples of the exploitative capitalistic system that works young children and ignores the injured and the elderly.

With many family members working, having found jobs rather easily, it is understandable that the allure of owning a house and creating a home captures the fancy of the family. However, both the house and Jurgis' wrath foreshadow future problems. The house symbolizes the American dream. But just as their dwelling is not really what it is presented as being, so too is the American dream false. Soon the house becomes an economic burden, forcing children to drop out of school in order to pay expenses. The dream becomes a nightmare as their lives become a living hell.


besom a broom, especially one made of twigs tied to a handle.

volubility an ability or tendency to talk much and easily.

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