Chapter 31 Summary
Jurgis goes to see Marija as soon as he gets a job. He tells her that she can quit her job as a prostitute and leave. She says she cannot. Not only is she now a drug addict but she will not be able to escape her past. No matter where she goes, there is always the likelihood of some man recognizing her and revealing her past life. She tells Jurgis to leave; she will always be a prostitute. Jurgis finally leaves because he sees that he is irritating her. He walks away with deep sadness and returns to Elzbieta’s, who is ill a great deal of the time now. The boys have picked up many bad habits from the street and are out of control. Jurgis despairs when he thinks of what his family has become.
One evening, Jurgis receives a call from Harry Adams, a friend who is also an ardent Socialist. Adams has received an invitation from a man named Fisher, a Chicago millionaire with Socialist leanings, to attend a gathering at his home. There will be a journalist from an Eastern magazine who is interested in the Socialist movement in Chicago. Adams invites Jurgis to go with him, and Jurgis accepts. Fisher’s home is located in the Ghetto because Fisher wants to be close to the workingman whose lives he wants to improve.
Jurgis feels nervous when he sees that the other guests include three ladies. This is a class of people around whom he has never had much success. He listens to conversations as the Socialists discuss different aspects of the movement. One man called Lucas used to be a traveling evangelist. Lucas gave up his ministry to devote himself to the “true faith” of Socialism. Nicholas Schliemann had been a professor of philosophy until he felt that he was selling his soul. Schliemann and Lucas discuss the role of religion in the Socialist society. They agree that the Jesus depicted in art and by organized religion has no place in the movement. It is only the Jesus of the Bible, the defender of the outcast and the oppressed, who is the true Savior. They discuss world affairs, especially the need for Socialism in Russia. Schliemann sees the progress in mechanization as a positive good—it releases people from mundane tasks so they can focus on ideas and the life of the mind.
Jurgis is impressed with what he hears. In the next election, there are more Socialist votes across the country than ever before. He sees that the movement is picking up speed. Soon it will be the most influential thought system in the nation. Soon Chicago will belong to the Socialists.