Chapter 11 Summary
During the summer, the packing houses are once again at full speed. However, Jurgis does not make as much money as he did the year before because more men are added into the system. This is to ensure that there are trained workers in the event that the regular crew goes on strike. The reduced hours also ensure that the workers are too poor to save up money to go on strike. At the canning factory where Marija used to work, a strike occurs but lasts only a few days. The women’s wages are cut nearly in half. This worries Jurgis and Ona, who fear that a strike will come in their workplaces. There is a monopoly on the beef market by the packing house owners, which limits competition and prevents the workers from finding a place with higher wages. The only one who is not afraid of strikes or cuts is Marija, who has risen in her job as beef trimmer. She opens a bank account, as does Tamoszius, and they begin to plan once again on a wedding.
One day, Marija goes by her bank to see a crowd of people outside. She questions those in line and learns that there is a run on the bank. People fear that they will not be able to get access to their money if the bank is in trouble, so they are lining up to withdraw their funds. Marija waits overnight in the rain until the bank opens. She takes out all her money, receiving it in silver bullion. Afterward, she begins to think there was no reason to fear, but the bank has closed the accounts of all those who participated in the run. Marija sews up her money inside of her clothes. When Jurgis jokes at her, saying she may sink into the mud by the weight of her money, she begins to fear crossing the streets. A new election comes; Jurgis understands this time that it is not right to sell one’s vote.
Winter returns and brings fierce blizzards that shut down the streetcars. Jurgis and Ona must leave two hours before dawn to get to work on time. Jurgis steps into one of the traps in which cow innards are swept and twists his ankle. The company doctor checks him out and tells him to go home; he says it is likely that he will be off work for several months. Jurgis eventually makes it home. The financial pressure that this creates causes Jurgis to become more temperamental. Only baby Antanas can calm him.