Chapter 20 Summary

Jurgis stays drunk for two days. When he returns to Aniele’s home, he finds that Ona has not yet been buried. Aniele berates him for spending all the family’s money on liquor while the women and children have been out begging for money to pay for a mass for his wife. She is to be buried in a pauper’s grave, but enough money has been raised to pay for the mass in advance.

Jurgis climbs up to the attic to find Marija sitting there, as far away from Ona’s corpse as she can. Jurgis sits by Ona, thinking of how much he has loved her and how this life has killed her. He blames himself for her death; she was just eighteen. Elzbieta and Marija have agreed to not say a word of reproach to him. Elzbieta has gone through this before—burying a child who has died too young. She reminds Jurgis that he cannot give up, that he has a son to think of. He must get over his grief and his anger and go out and find a job. He vows to do so, even before Ona is buried. He returns to the fertilizer factory, but he is told there will not be a place for him. He goes to the packing plant where Jonas had worked and is told to return the next day to begin a job pushing a truck. When he comes back, the foreman tells him that he made a mistake and there is no job for him.

Downhearted at this disappointment, Jurgis goes to a saloon. The men tell him that he has most likely been blacklisted for attacking Ona’s boss and that and he will not find any job open to him in Packingtown. Jurgis returns home and discusses what he should do with Marija and Elzbieta. Now that they do not have to make house payments and all the children are working, there is more money. They decide that Jurgis should go downtown to find work. He wanders and finds nothing but a short-term task for which he may earn a few cents.

He goes to a factory that builds harvesting machinery. He sees the cleanliness and friendliness of the place. He is offered a job carrying parts to different sections, for which he is paid a dollar and seventy-five cents a day. He is able to pay Aniele the rent she is due as well as redeem his overcoat from the pawn shop. At the end of nine days, however, a sign is posted that the section of the factory has been closed indefinitely, and once again Jurgis is out of a job.