Chapter 22 Summary

At the news of Antanas’s death, Jurgis calmly goes up to the attic and views the body. Marija explains that Antanas demanded to go out to play and fell off the sidewalk, which is five feet about street level. She assures Jurgis that he is dead; they had called the doctor. Jurgis says nothing. He goes down the ladder and out the door, then he starts walking down the street.

Jurgis keeps walking until he comes to a railroad crossing. A freight train is passing, and on a sudden impulse Jurgis jumps up into one of the cars. When the train stops, he hides under the cars, fighting in his soul. He gets back on the train, deciding that he is no longer bound to anyone. He will live only for himself, without any obligations. The train goes out into the country. He realizes that it has been three years since he, a man raised in the country, has seen anything but the dirt and filth of the city. He feels a sense of freedom at last.

Jurgis hops off the train and begins walking. He comes upon a farmhouse and asks if he may buy a meal. The farmer tells him to ask “the woman,” who gives him two sandwiches, a piece of pie, and two apples. Jurgis finds a spot along the stream and eats his food. He throws off his clothes and bathes in the stream. He then washes his clothes. While they dry, he sleeps. He comes to another farmhouse, where he is turned away as a tramp. In return for this treatment, Jurgis pulls up the farmer’s recently planted peach trees. He comes to another farm, where the farmer feeds him. He offers Jurgis a job until winter but will have nothing for him after that. Jurgis asks what he will do with his horse in the winter—feed him or turn him out into the cold. The farmer has no reply to this. He suggests that Jurgis might be able to find work in the city, but Jurgis knows this is fruitless.

Jurgis begins the life of a tramp. He travels around, picking fruit or stealing food. Occasionally he will do chores for a meal, but he refuses to stay in one place. When harvest comes, Jurgis is in Missouri, where there is much temporary work. He comes upon the home of a workingman who is from White Russia and speaks Lithuanian. They share reminiscences while the man’s wife bathes her baby. The little boy reminds Jurgis of Antanas. He is overcome by grief and runs out into the pouring rain.