Although Sinclair does not identify a singular individual responsible for the suffering that Jurgis and his family endure, Phil Connor functions as the embodiment of the antagonistic forces at work throughout the novel. The fact that Sinclair never gives the reader access to Connor’s point of view works to make him a rather distant and impersonal character, qualities which allow him to serve as an ideal symbol of the evils of capitalism.  He first appears as Ona’s cruel and predatory boss, but Sinclair later reveals that he has important political ties as well. The power that Connor derives from these two positions, both of which he abuses in order to get what he wants, make it virtually impossible for anyone to challenge him. When he rapes Ona and forces her to work at Miss Henderson’s brothel, he threatens to destroy her family by putting everyone out of work. The connections that Connor has throughout Chicago make this a very real threat, and Ona, who is meek and innocent by nature, feels that she has no other choice but to agree to his demands. Connor’s sexual exploitation of Ona highlights the unique dangers that women face in an unregulated workplace dominated by men. 

This scenario also works to evoke sympathy for Ona and her family as it highlights the steep price they must pay in order to satisfy another man’s appalling greed. Knowledge of this corrupt behavior alone is enough to bring out the worst in Jurgis, and his impulsive attack on Connor serves as a major turning point in the family’s financial struggles. With the connections that he has throughout the city, Connor has no problem convincing the judge of Jurgis’s guilt and quickly blacklists each member of the family to prevent them from working. By highlighting the tragedies that this turn of events brings upon Jurgis’s family, Sinclair emphasizes the immorality of abusing power and calls attention to the ease with which it happens in a capitalist system. The fact that Jurgis’s second encounter with Connor ends in a similar way reflects the unbreakable nature of the era’s industrial and political corruption.