Chapters 40-41 Summary
Carrie learns that the hotel is not expected to open until October now. She feels more contemptuous of Hurstwood’s inability to find a job. She learns that her show will be closing and going on the road. She and Osborne go to another theater, where they are immediately given spots for twenty dollars a week. Carrie is jubilant at the increase in her salary. Hurstwood can see that she is doing better at her job because she is buying new and better quality clothes.
Hurstwood reads in the paper that the streetcar conductors may go on strike. As he reads over their demands, he sympathizes with them at first. However, he changes his mind when he learns that the streetcar company is hiring replacements for the strikers. Hurstwood knows that being a “scab” is dangerous, but he takes comfort at the notice that police will be protecting the cars. He applies at the head office and is given a job even though he has no experience. As he goes to the Barn to learn how to operate a streetcar, two policemen observe him and comment that he will soon get his fill; they have had experience with strikes before.
Hurstwood begins his streetcar conductor career in Brooklyn, where the company is especially shorthanded. Many of the other replacement workers have no experience in conducting either. He overhears them discussing the undesirability of being a scab, but they all need work. If they did not need the money, they would not be doing this and risking violence from the strikers.
An instructor shows Hurstwood how to run the car. At first, he believes it will be easy because he has seen it done on many of the cars he has ridden. Soon he realizes that the controls are trickier than they seem. He has some time to practice before lunch. He eats only a piece of dry bread and then waits for his turn. In the evening, he realizes that it would take him two and half hours to get back home. He and other conductors are directed to cots in a nearby building.
In the morning, Hurstwood gets on his car, along with two police officers. He is instructed to avoid crowds. On his run, many strikers throw verbal abuse at him. He tries to ignore it as much as he can. On his second run, things begin to get violent. Stones are thrown and the track is blocked. When the officers get out to clear the way, a fight breaks out. Hurstwood manages to get the car moving, but he hears a shot and feels a sting on his arm. He takes his car back to the Barn and heads for home. He sees that his bullet wound is just a scratch. He reads the newspaper account of the strike with renewed interest.