Chapter 29 Summary

Jurgis is overwhelmed with emotion at the close of the speech. He no longer sees himself as a victim of fate but as an active agent in his own destiny. Another man, the chairman of the party, steps up to speak, but his voice is weak compared to that of the previous speaker; it seems to be a profanation of the mood. A collection is taken up but Jurgis does not have a single penny to give. The floor is opened to questions, which seems like a sacrilege to Jurgis. This calls for action, not talking. He feels ready to organize and fight the forces of injustice. As the discussion goes on, Jurgis sees a more realistic picture in which he is a “hobo,” dirty and smelly.

When the meeting breaks up, Jurgis is distraught. Since his emotions have been so elevated, he has forgotten that he is poor and homeless, hungry, and destitute. He has no place to sleep that night. He fears that once he leaves the building, the feelings that have risen in his breast will disappear and his former life will take over once again.

He tries to talk with the speaker but is told that the speaker is too tired. The speaker, however, stops him and asks him questions. Jurgis explains that he has gone through everything he mentioned but he has never heard the message the speaker gave that night. The speaker explains that this is Socialism, but this is not a word Jurgis has ever heard. The speaker realizes Jurgis is Lithuanian and calls another party member, known as Comrade Ostrinski, who speaks Lithuanian. He tells Jurgis that Ostrinski will explain to him the principles of Socialism.

Ostrinski asks him if he has a place to stay, and Jurgis explains that he is homeless. Ostrinski tells him that he has no place to keep Jurgis, but he decides that it is better for Jurgis to sleep on the kitchen floor among comrades than to be out in the night without friends. Jurgis agrees and goes home with Ostrinski. Ostrinski’s wife and children live in very humble lodgings. Ostrinski explains that he is a “pants finisher,” a tailor who finishes up the work of others. His eyesight is failing, however, and he has not saved up any money. Jurgis and Ostrinski stay up late into the night as explains the basic principles of the Socialist message, which is spread all over the world. Jurgis goes to sleep with visions of the workers of Packingtown marching against the bosses to take control of the stockyards.