When the family moves to America, they travel to Chicago to find housing and employment.The family has rented living quarters in the filthy boarding house run by Aniele Jukniene, but Jurgis and the others want to buy a house.The family finds an advertisement for better housing, but a dishonest agent misleads them. They do buy the house, but are made to sign a deceitful deed, whose contents they do not comprehend, as they have not been able to learn English. As the house agent makes more demands for money, causing everyone in the family, even young Stanislovas, to fine work. Jurgis always says, "I will work harder," when the going gets rough on the family.

Atfirst Jurgis finds work in the meat industry in Packingtown.Jurgis was working on the always speeding up killing beds.This was very risky job as there was no heat or air ventilating the factory, and at times the visibility was only your arms stretched in front of yourself.The floors are slippery and almost everyone carries a knife.However, Jurgis sprains his ankle at the factory and the company declines any responsibility and he is bedridden for 3 months.

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When Jurgis returns to the killing beds, he is rejected for employment.Jurgis then finds work at the fertilizer plant.Jurgis then hears word of Ona having to sleep with her boss, Phil Connor, and goes to jail for attacking Connor.When Jurgis returns from jail he finds out the family has been thrown out of the house and is living in a boarding house again.At the same time Ona dies from difficult premature labor and Jurgis goes off on a drinking binge.Jurgis does come back and since he is blacklisted in Chicago he goes downtown to find work.

He eventually finds a job at a harvest plant but this only last a week and a half.Jurgis goes back to Packingtown and finds yet another job in a steel factory.But when his son Antanas drowns in the water filled street, Jurgis becomes a ho.