Chapter 10 Summary

As winter gives way to spring, the family’s worries grow. Jurgis still does not work a full day, and the canning factory has not reopened. Marija must put off plans to marry. The water pipes freeze, causing a flood in the house. The price of the repair is staggering. When Ona and Teta Elzbieta go to the agent to make their house payment, they learn that they are also required to buy insurance and they must pay taxes and water bills. If the city decides to put in a sewer or a sidewalk, this will be even more money. Soon Ona discovers that she is pregnant.

When the warm weather arrives, so do the flies. The heat inside the factories is unbearable. Marija is overjoyed when the canning factory reopens, but she is fired within a month or so. She feels sure that it is because of her involvement with the union. She had complained several times about the forelady’s errors in counting, but the foreman did nothing about it. Marija tries for months to find another job. Finally she secures a position as a beef trimmer simply because she is a woman and can be paid half of what a man would be paid. She is as strong as a man and does the job well, but she views it as a drop in status. Marija quits the union, seeing it as the source of her problems.

Ona also has problems at her work. The forelady is the former mistress of the superintendent. Besides working at the packing house, she runs a house of prostitution. She gives her prostitutes jobs in the packing house because she can control them more than she can others. She, as well as the prostitutes, scorn Ona because she is a decent married woman.

Ona gives birth to a large baby boy. Jurgis had insisted on a male doctor rather than the questionable midwives that inhabit Packingtown. Jurgis is enthralled by his son, though he has had little use for babies in the past. He names him Antanas after his father. Ona must return to work only a week after giving birth, leaving little Antanas to be cared for by Teta Elzbieta. Rather than being able to nurse (both for the baby’s health and her own), Ona must leave him in the care of her stepmother, who feeds him the “poisoned” pale blue milk bought at the market. Ona soon develops “womb trouble,” which weakens her considerably. She tries patent medicine, which is mostly alcohol, but finds no relief.