Chapter 17 Summary

On Christmas Day, Jurgis is let out of his cell to get water for cleaning. There is a small exercise area; visitors may come to see the prisoners, separated by two walls of wire. Jurgis looks anxiously to see if any of his family has come, but they have not. When he returns to his cell, he has a cell mate. He introduces himself as Jack Duane and explains that he is a safe cracker. He is an educated man who has fallen on hard times. His father had some bad business luck and committed suicide. Jack had no options, so he turned to a life of crime. Jurgis asks if he thinks of his family at all, but Jack explains that he does not allow himself to do that. Jurgis is fascinated by Jack; he is the only educated person with whom he has ever had close contact. After a week, Jack is released. Before he leaves, he gives Jurgis his card with his mistress’s address on it. He tells Jurgis to look him up should he ever be in need of help.

Jurgis returns to the courthouse for his trial. He looks for his family but sees only Elzbieta and Kotrina. Ona is nowhere in sight, which worries Jurgis. He sees Connor enter the court with his face bandaged. Jurgis has to be restrained from attacking him again. Connor presents his case first, stating that Ona had been fired for impudence. Jurgis tells the judge that Connor had tried to seduce Ona. The judge asks why she did not complain to the superintendent. Jurgis says Connor raped his wife, but Connor denies this, saying this is always what a woman says when she has to be let go. The judge gives Jurgis thirty days in prison. When he leaves the courtroom, Jurgis tries to communicate with Elzbieta but gives up in shame. He is taken to the Cook County Jail.

After Jurgis has been in prison for one week, Stanislovas comes to visit him. He says Ona is sick and they are all starving. The landlord threatened to evict them because they cannot make the monthly payment. Ona tried to go back to work but was turned away. Elzbieta is also unemployed because the sausage factory has closed. Marija cut her hand, and it is infected. The doctor said it would most like have to be amputated. Stanislovas was also fired for not showing up for three days during a snowstorm. Kotrina has started selling newspapers and is moderately successful at it. Stanislovas begs Jurgis for money, but Jurgis only has fourteen cents. Stanislovas leaves, defeated.