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Date QW Written: November 5, 2015
Ever since the beginning of the novel, Jurgis has been in a fight for survival. Jurgis had endured through the taxing labor and speeding up in the meat-packing industry, the death of his father, and the death of Ona. Yet, the thing that breaks Jurgis is the death of his son Antanas — the personification of Jurgis’ hope.
After the death of Antanas, Jurgis leaves the family on a whim and becomes a tramp. On the road, Jurgis reaches the country, which he finds conform in because of its reminder of his old home in Lithuania. Jurgis stays in numerous farm houses along his journey after re-familiarizing himself with the country. At the numerous farm houses, Jurgis is ironically offered a couple of jobs due to the lack of help in the countryside. Yet, Jurgis declines the offers because he does not feel as if he belongs. The catalyst to those feelings is when Jurgis leaves the house of a working-man, crying, after being reminded of Antanas by the working-man’s son.
Soon after, Jurgis returns to the city and becomes a beggar. Although certainly pitiful with an injury, Jurgis cannot compete with the expert beggars on the streets. His time in the streets lead him to meet young Master Frederick, who shows Jurgis hospitality in an unforgiving world. Master Frederick’s hospitality symbolized by the hundred dollar bill he gives Jurgis essentially lands Jurgis back into jail in which he sees Jack Duane again and into a new chapter of his life.
Jurgis and Duane begin a life of robbery together after their time in jail. This practice of high crime ironically leads Jurgis into the top circles of the capitalistic society. This high life eventually compromises Jurgis’ values and morals. Jurgis partakes in betting in rigged horse races and starts to perform graft himself.
Jurgis’ life as a tramp turns Jurgis’ character upside-down. Jurgis is led into poverty that makes it necessary to compromise morals to survive. It is only during this time of debauchery does Jurgis begin earning more than enough money for himself. Although Jurgis seems to have achieved the wealth of the American Dream, he himself realizes he had not won at all. He has only become immersed in the world of Mike Scully and politically-driven agendas that had sent him into poverty in the first place. The poverty and necessity to survive instilled in Jurgis causes him to rise in the food chain but sink in his values and beliefs in the “dream.”