Chapter 12 Summary
Jurgis remains in bed for three weeks; his ankle remains swollen and painful. Eventually they call a doctor. He tells Jurgis that he has injured a tendon and must be off his feet for two months or risk being lame for life. After a couple of days, Jurgis tries to go back to work, but he almost faints from the pain and has to be carried home.
A few days later, another blizzard hits. Ona and Stanislovas head off to work but return around noon. Stanislovas has frozen his fingers. He screams with pain as his fingers are thawed out. This annoys Jurgis, who threatens to beat him. In the morning, Stanislovas refuses to go to work so Jurgis does beat him, and he must beat him each morning after that. Ona fears she has lost her job because she was absent, but she learns that the forelady was also gone and so must be lenient. Stanislovas’s fingers are permanently crippled, which makes him even more unwilling to go to work.
Jurgis begins to weaken, losing most of his muscle. In March, he learns that there is only three dollars left in Ona’s bank account. About this time, Jonas disappears. It is possible that he fell into one of the vats and was rendered into lard. When this would happen, the company would usually tell the family that he got his week’s wages and took off. However, Jurgis and his family decide that the latter is most likely true because Jonas was becoming increasingly bitter about paying rent for a cold room with not enough food. He feels that he has to turn over all his money because this is what Marija has done. Now that spring has come, Jonas probably took the opportunity to leave Chicago. This leaves one less mouth to feed, but it also means that the family has lost one third of its income. They have to borrow money from Marija and also from Tamoszius, which means that the couple must once again postpone their wedding. Eventually, two of the boys are sent out to learn to sell papers. At first, they are taken advantage of and beaten, but eventually they learn the ways of the street.
In April, Jurgis goes to the doctor to have his ankle checked. He is given permission to go back to work, but when he does, he learns that he has lost his position. He takes his place among the unemployed; however, he is no longer the able-bodied man he once was and is unable to find a job.