Chapter 5 Summary

Now that they have bought their house, the family worries about how to furnish it. Their funds are very low; they stay awake at night worrying about it. They see an advertisement for a company that will furnish a four-room home for seventy-five dollars, with reasonable payments. They feel worried about going into further debt, but the family decides they must have furniture. They are excited when it arrives even though it is not quite enough for a family of twelve. Jurgis brings home some packing cases to make some dressers. Even so, some of them have to sleep on the floor. Ona and Jurgis feel that soon they will be able to get married.

Jurgis is enjoying his job. Shoveling intestines into the trap is hard, back-breaking, disgusting work, but he feels happy to be making money at a useful occupation. He is shocked when he learns that his fellow workers are not so happy. They feel that they are pushed too hard for too long by foremen who are hired to “speed up the gang.” Jurgis cannot understand this; in the Old Country, men were glad to have a job and did what they were told to do without complaining. Here, people want to get the same amount of money for doing less. This begins to make cracks in his joy at being part of the American system.

Jurgis is further disturbed by Antanas’s difficulty in securing a job. He is finally approached by a man who will get him a job in return for one third of his wages. Because Antanas wants to work despite his age, he agrees. Jurgis is upset that Antanas is cheated out of his hard-earned wages, but a friend, Tamoszius, tells him that this often happens. It is called graft. The foremen are under pressure to keep the production lines moving, but are not above making a little money on the side if they can.

Marija learns that she got her job at the expense of someone else. The previous laborer, Mary Dennis, was a single mother, whose son is crippled and epileptic. When Mary caught consumption, the forelady hired Marija to take her place because sick workers slow down production. Jonas was also hired to replace a worker who was injured by a runaway cart. One evening, Jurgis is kept after to help take up the slack left by an injured worker. He sees that cows that have recently given birth (which means that their meat does not meet quality standards) are kept for a few days and then put in with the other carcasses. He begins to think that those who laughed at him for his faith in America might be right.