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Date QW Written: November 2, 2015
At the beginning of the novel, Jurgis, Ona, Marija, and Elzbieta enter America with naivete an in chase of the forever elusive American Dream.
Ona enters the story as the frail bride of Jurgis. She is brought along her family’s journey to find wealth in America. While she is without strong conviction, she too hopes for the life of the American Dream. She is excited when she and her family sets out to buy a house and is underwhelmed when she sees the actual size and condition of her future home. Ona starts to chase the “dream” being weak and essentially leaves the novel the same way. To go to work, she had to have Jurgis carry her to the station. At the end, Ona dies in childbirth, a victim of the capitalistic society she lived in. Yet, in the middle of her journey, Ona built a certain character in hiding her accounts of rape from Jurgis and the others. This character just reveals that the “dream” is not be taken but rather takes the hope and innocence from the dreamers themselves.
Marija enters the story as the matriarch of the family — strong, loud, and proud — the foible to Ona. She follows Jurgis’ footsteps in finding a job and takes pride in getting a job painting cans, believing her strength was what earned her the job. Yet in the personal of the American Dream, Marija is not excepted as a victim. She gets gangreen from cutting herself on the job and loses her job when winter comes. After Jurgis is taken to jail, Marija is forced to take the official lead of the family, only now working as a prostitute. When visited by Jurgis, Marija is apathetic toward every aspect of her life, from the death of Stanislovas to her dope addiction. As another victim to the American Dream, she tells Jurgis that they have lost against the capitalist machine and nothing could have changed that.
Elizbieta, too, is jaded by the “dream” by the end of the novel. The capitalistic machine takes more than one of her children. Elizbieta entered the country with stories of friends who got rich and leaves the story apathetic and only focused on getting the next meal for her children. Like the two other women, Elizbieta was chewed out and spit out by the American Dream.
The greatest change in the novel may be Jurgis himself. In his version of the “dream,” he would be the only one of the house to work, bringing in enough to feed the twelve members of the family. Jurgis starts by being the backbone of the family, hopeful and strong and ends up losing his part in the family, weak and tired. Jurgis in the most dynamic of his family. While he loses his hope more than once, personified in Ona and his son Antanas, he only fights to hope again in converting to socialism. The American Dream is polluted by the smoke of factories and the filth in their food. Jurgis is enlightened to this by the end of the novel. He says it himself best when he realizes that he and his family were the squealing hogs they saw on the first day in Packington, on the tour. He realizes that he too was set up to be slaughtered. He is a hog who is doomed to never achieve the American Dream — just like us all.