“Little one,” he said, in a low voice, “do not worry—it will not matter to us. We will pay them all somehow. I will work harder.” That was always what Jurgis said. Ona had grown used to it as the solution of all difficulties—“I will work harder!”
After their wedding, Jurgis and Ona realize that their guests did not give them enough money to repay the debts they had accumulated. Jurgis reassures Ona that he will work hard to earn money and pay off their debts, a refrain he repeats throughout the novel. Still new to America, he believes in the American Dream: that he can succeed as long as he works hard.
That was a country where, they said, a man might earn three roubles a day; and Jurgis figured what three roubles a day would mean, with prices as they were where he lived, and decided forthwith that he would go to America and marry, and be a rich man in the bargain. In that country, rich or poor, a man was free, it was said; he did not have to go into the army, he did not have to pay out his money to rascally officials, —he might do as he pleased, and count himself as good as any other man.
After Jonas suggests that they go to America in search of work, Jurgis pictures what his life there might be like. He assumes that he will become rich, and that even if he is not rich, at least he will be free and equal to others. He does not yet know how the economic system works in America, compromising the freedoms of workers by controlling their pay and jobs. He also calculates how much money he could make based on the prices in Lithuania, not realizing how much more expensive life in America is.
Jurgis was determined that Teta Elzbieta should stay at home to keep house, and that Ona should help her. He would not have Ona working—he was not that sort of a man, he said, and she was not that sort of a woman. It would be a strange thing if a man like him could not support the family, with the help of the board of Jonas and Marija.
As Jurgis and the family begin their life in America, he finds a job but insists that Ona and Teta Elzbieta should not work. He imagines them living the classic American dream, with the man of the house being able to provide for the women. He even finds the image of Ona working in a factory like him “strange.” However, he will soon find how unfeasible their lives become without Ona and Teta Elzbieta bringing in money.
And so Jurgis marched into the hog-killing room, a place where, in the days gone by, he had come begging for a job. Now he walked jauntily, and smiled to himself[.]
The narrator describes how, after Jurgis gets out of prison for beating up the bartender, he turns to a life of crime and gets a job in the hog-killing room from one of his connections. He feels proud of himself for no longer being a beggar, and he makes a living by stealing money from others. Although he raised his station in life, as he wanted to by coming to America, he likely never pictured this sort of success when he dreamed of being rich in his new country.