Chapter 15 Summary

Ona goes through periods of intense crying. After each time, she promises Jurgis that it will never happen again—but it does. In the fall as the holiday season approaches, the women begin to work overtime, sometimes fifteen hours a day. They feel worn out, but they are glad for the extra money it brings. A day or two before Thanksgiving, another snowstorm comes. Elzbieta, Marija, and Jurgis make it home all right but Ona is missing. Jurgis had fallen asleep, but the women wake him up to tell him. He dresses and heads out into the storm to find Ona. It is early morning when he arrives at the stockyards. There he is told that Ona timed out and left at the regular time. No one knows where she went. Jurgis tries to trace down his wife and at last finds her on the streets. She is crying. She says she could not make it home so she stayed at the home of her friend Jadvyga. With a haunted look in her eyes, Ona is led back to the packing house to begin the work day.

Three days before Christmas, Ona once again does not come home. Jurgis goes to Jadvyga’s house, expecting to find her there, but Jadvyga does not know anything about Ona’s whereabouts. What is more, she says Ona never stayed with her previously. Jurgis feels furious that Ona has lied to him. He begins to trace Ona’s route home. He sees her get off the street car and go into the house.

When Jurgis goes inside, Elzbieta tells him that Ona lost her mind; she wandered the streets all night and returned that morning. Jurgis knows this is a lie because he just saw her. He goes into the bedroom and grabs Ona, demanding to know where she has been and why she has been lying to him. He grabs her throat and just barely manages to keep himself from choking her. Ona breaks down and tells him that she has been in Miss Henderson’s bordello. Unwillingly, she tells Jurgis that her boss, Connor, had been trying to seduce her. He promised her that if she submitted, she and her family would be guaranteed jobs for the rest of their lives. If not, they would all be fired and never find a position in the city again. One evening, Connor raped her, but Ona did not cry out for fear of what would happen to her family. On several evenings, Connor took her to Miss Henderson’s. Ona hoped that eventually Connor would grow tired of her, as her pregnancy advanced. Jurgis rushes out of the house and goes to the stock yards. He finds Connor and attacks him, biting his cheek off. Men finally pull him off and call a patrol wagon.