Jurgis has to stay in prison for three extra days because he lacks the money to pay the cost of his trial. When he is released, he walks twenty miles to his home in Packingtown. He discovers a new family living in his home. He visits Grandmother Majauszkiene, who informs him that his family could not pay the rent. The agent evicted them and sold the house within a week. She gives him the address of the boarding house where they stayed when they first arrived in Chicago.
Jurgis trudges off toward the old boarding house, feeling defeated and reflecting on how he and his family have been unjustly treated. As the widow stands in the open door, Jurgis hears Ona screaming, and he tears through the house. He hears her in a garret; as he is about to ascend the ladder to the garret, however, Marija tries to stop him. She tells him that the Ona’s baby is coming—Ona has gone into premature labor. Unable to stand Ona’s horrible cries, Jurgis scrounges together a dollar and a quarter from the widow and other women in her kitchen in order to get help for Ona.
Jurgis runs to the apartment of a Dutch midwife, Madame Haupt, and begs her to attend to Ona. She asks for twenty-five dollars; after trying unsuccessfully to make her understand that he has neither money nor friends with money, Jurgis heads down the stairs. Madame Haupt finally agrees to go for the dollar and a quarter that Jurgis does have. Marija and the widow turn Jurgis out for the night, telling him that he will only be in the way. He goes to a saloon that he used to frequent, and the saloonkeeper provides him food, drink, and a place to rest. At four o’clock in the morning, Jurgis returns to the boardinghouse and sees Madame Haupt descend from the garret covered in blood. She informs him that the baby is dead and that Ona is dying. Jurgis rushes up to find a priest praying near the withered Ona. She recognizes him for an instant and then dies. In the morning, Kotrina appears and Jurgis demands to know where she has been. She replies that she has been out selling papers with the boys. Jurgis takes three dollars from her and proceeds to a nearby bar to get drunk.
When Jurgis is sober, Teta Elzbieta begs him to remember Antanas. Jurgis rouses himself to look for work for his son’s sake if nothing else. But he soon learns that he is blacklisted in Packingtown. Phil Connor has made certain that he will never find another job there. Marija’s hand will soon be healed enough for her to return to work, however, and Teta Elzbieta has a lead on a job scrubbing floors.
After two weeks of futile searching and odd jobs, Jurgis meets an old acquaintance from his union. The man leads him to a factory where harvesting machines are produced, and the foreman gives Jurgis a job. The working conditions are much better, and the factory is a paragon of philanthropy and goodwill. Nevertheless, workers still must keep up a breakneck speed. Jurgis regains hope and begins to make plans, even studying English at night. Several days later, however, a placard at the factory informs the men who work there that Jurgis’s department will be closed until further notice.
Only the children’s wages keep the family from starvation while Jurgis spends more than ten days looking for another job. Juozapas, Teta Elzbieta’s crippled child, begins to go to the local dump to find food. A rich woman finds him there and asks him about his life. Hearing of the tragedy and penury that pursues the family, she visits them at the boardinghouse. Shocked at the squalor in which they live, she resolves to find Jurgis a job. She is engaged to be married to a superintendent at a steel mill, so she writes a letter of recommendation for Jurgis. Jurgis takes the letter to the superintendent and gets himself hired.