Summary and Analysis
From an old Lithuanian widow, Grandmother Majauszkiene, Jurgis and his family learn that their house is not brand new; in fact, it is fifteen years old. Jurgis is the fifth person to attempt to pay for this particular house, paying a price that is already three times the cost to build it. Majauszkiene also mentions paying interest on the mortgage; this is news to Jurgis, who again vows to work harder. Now Ona and Stanislovas, one of Elzbieta's children, must seek employment. Ona pays $10 to get a job at Brown's, and Stanislovas lies about his age, with help from the priest, and lands a job tending a lard machine. With another disaster seemingly averted, Jurgis and Ona once again begin to discuss plans for their wedding.
Although Chapter 6 begins and ends with mention of the love between Jurgis and Ona, the pages in between show how the public manifestation of their love — their wedding — must be postponed as bills and adversity dominate their lives.
In the middle of their misfortune, Jurgis and Ona meet Grandmother Majauszkiene. As a character, Grandmother Majauszkiene serves two major purposes. The first deals with the influx of immigrants. Having worked hard enough and long enough to purchase her house, she has lived in the neighborhood long enough to see many families come and go, attempting unsuccessfully to make timely house payments. Tragedy strikes each family and ethnic group — the Germans, the Irish, the Bohemians, and the Poles — but the builders, who represent industry, don't care about the struggles of working people. Grandmother Majauszkiene is also the first socialist Jurgis encounters. Not much is made of her political affiliation; in fact it is referred to as a "strange thing." It is strange only because it is different, and it isn't talked about because Jurgis is not yet in a position to be willing to listen to and appreciate the party's message.
The dependence on money is of paramount importance from this chapter until the end of the book. Constantly Jurgis works harder and harder, only to find himself further and further in debt. The house, due to the added and hidden expenses, ends up costing much more than it initially appears to. The false sense of security that buying the house suggests parallels the false sense of security immigrants have when coming to America. Immigrants are seduced by promises of riches and success and are willing to work extremely hard to turn their dreams into reality; but Sinclair argues that the system isn't designed to promote success. In fact, as more and more youths are forced to join the labor force in order to help keep their families alive; the very American dream that lured immigrant families to America destroys those families.
lose all caste to lose social status or position.
consumption a disease causing the wasting away of the body, especially, formerly, tuberculosis of the lungs.