Chapter 27 Summary
Jurgis now lives like an outcast. He is as poor as he has ever been, but it feels worse because he has become used to a higher standard of living. He expects more but receives less. The hard times continue across the country, and Jurgis is unable to find any work, even performing chores. He buys day-old bread, but eventually even that is beyond his means; he looks through the trash for edible bits. He steals a cabbage and must run to avoid capture. The Chicago newspapers open up soup kitchens, but the lines for these are so long that Jurgis rarely gets any food. It is election time, but few people are interested. He attends a meeting but it brings back too many memories of when he had more money and more influence in the political process. He leaves and walks through the rain until he runs into an old acquaintance that had been at his wedding feast. He had stopped her with the intention of begging the price of a night’s lodging when he recognized her. She explains that she does not have any money with her; however, she can tell him where to find Marija, who has a place to live and is doing well. She gives him her address on Clark Street.
When Jurgis arrives at Marija’s address on Clark Street, he finds it is a stately house. He rings the doorbell and a servant asks who he is. When he says he wants to see Marija, she tells him there is no one there by that name. He turns to leave but is blocked by policemen who have come to raid the place. The residents of the house take off in various directions. Jurgis realizes that this is a house of prostitution. He sees a heavily made-up woman and eventually recognizes her as Marija, who has become a prostitute. They go to her room so that Marija can get dressed to be taken down to the police station.
Marija explains that she makes enough money to keep Elzbieta and the children fed. Stanislovas is dead. He had a job carrying beer to the bosses. One night he drank some of it and went to sleep. When they found him the next morning, he had been eaten by rats. Jurgis is horrified, thinking of the young boy he had to beat to get him to go out in the cold to work.
Jurgis agonizes over the honorable lives he and Marija have given up. He cannot fault Marija for being a whore because he is a thief. Marija tells him they would have all been all right if they had realized what it took to survive. Ona could have supported them all if she had become a prostitute. Jurgis is taken along with the prostitutes and their clients to the police station.