Chapter 16 Summary
Jurgis is exhausted and half dazed from his attack on Connor, so he submits quietly to the policemen. He has been in Packingtown for two and a half years, so he is aware of the brutal reputation of the local police. When he is thrown into his cell, Jurgis initially feels some satisfaction at his vengeance on Connor. As his senses clear, however, he realizes the enormity of what he has done. Ona will surely lose her job and he will go to prison; he might even be executed. Ona and the others will not have enough money to live.
Jurgis cannot sleep. The other prisoners, as well as the homeless who are allowed to spend the night in the jail, make too much noise. The smell of fertilizer draws contempt from the other prisoners. In the morning he is given dry bread and drugged coffee, which he does not drink. He is overcome with shame and rage at what has happened and he fears the impact of his actions on his family. They had just recently paid rent two weeks late, which means that rent is due in another week. They do not have the money to pay it, so they will be turned out into the winter streets to die. Jurgis thinks of all they have done to maintain the house. It will all be lost.
Later that morning, a patrol wagon takes Jurgis and other prisoners to the courthouse. He knows he is about to be tried, but he does not know the crime with which he is being charged. He is not sure if Connor is alive or dead. If Connor died from the attack, Jurgis will be executed. As Jurgis enters the courtroom, he realizes the judge is the notorious Pat Callahan. Nicknamed “The Growler,” Callahan grew up devoted to politics. He held several offices but decided to become an “honest” magistrate once his children began to grow up and require that their father have a respectable position. Along with Mike Scully, Callahan rules the local government even as he makes money on the side with brothels.
Connor is not able to appear in court, so Callahan orders that Jurgis be held; he places the bond at three hundred dollars. No one can pay that, so Jurgis is returned to jail. He is stripped naked and walked down the aisle between the cells, subjected to the mockery of the other prisoners. He is bathed extra long to remove the smell of the fertilizer. He is placed in a cell alone—a place that is crawling with cockroaches. In the night, Jurgis hears bells pealing out. He is not sure what is happening until he realizes it is Christmas Eve. Jurgis thinks of the holidays in the Old Country and weeps for his lost life and in fear for his family at home.