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CHAPTERS 18 - 19
Jurgis has to spend three extra days in prison breaking stones, to cover the costs of the court. When finally released, unfamiliar with his surroundings and without a cent in his pocket, Jurgis begins to walk home. He is given wrong directions by a boy he meets, and it takes him hours to reach Packingtown. When he arrives home, Jurgis is amazed to find the house repaired and painted a different color. A strange child comes out of the front door and in answer to Jurgis' queries says the house is his. The child's mother then emerges from the house and is shocked to learn that Jurgis' family had ever lived in it. She bought it three days previously, having been told that it was new.
Heartbroken, Jurgis reaches Aniele Jukniene's, where the family is now staying. He is greeted by the wild screams of Ona, who has gone into labor prematurely. Jurgis is desperate to fetch a doctor, but there is no money. Marija tells Jurgis that even midwives are demanding ten, fifteen or even twenty-five dollars. To get Jurgis out of the house, where he can be of no help, Aniele gives Jurgis all the money she has, thirty-four cents and the other women in the room all contribute their pennies and nickels. The entire sum totals a dollar and quarter. With this, Jurgis sets out to fetch a midwife.
Jurgis finds a midwife called Madame Haupt; she is obese, filthy and greedy. Jurgis is desperate to get help for Ona, but the midwife is unwilling to move until a deal is struck. She is convinced that Jurgis has money but does not want to pay her much. After much haggling, she brings her price down to five dollars. At this point, Jurgis turns to walk away but is called back by Madame Haupt, who is willing to do the job if she is paid the dollar and quarter immediately and the rest later. Precious time is wasted while the midwife gets ready. At Aniele's she has to be desperately persuaded to ascend the ladder leading to the garret where Ona lies. The midwife is appalled by the conditions and complains loudly.
Meanwhile, Jurgis is dispatched to a saloon where the keeper gives him drinks and a meal because he has been a good customer in the past. Jurgis falls asleep in a rear room of the saloon and wakes some time before dawn to return to Aniele's. Marija tells him the baby is not yet born. Jurgis realizes that Ona can however no longer be heard. Soon a blood-smeared Madame Haupt descends with the news that the baby is dead and Ona is dying. Jurgis rushes up to the dark garret where Ona's skeletal form lies, barely alive. A priest is praying and Elzbieta sits crouched in a corner. As Jurgis holds Ona's hand and calls her name, she barely opens her eyelids. For a fraction of a second there is a gleam of recognition in her eyes and then she is gone.
Jurgis is beyond himself with grief and despair. After dawn, he comes down to the kitchen. Kotrina, who knows nothing of the night's events, having been selling papers downtown, rushes in. Jurgis takes her money and walks out to the nearest saloon to get drunk.
Ona's death shatters Jurgis. While in prison, he had thought that death would be Ona's only deliverance, but faced with the reality of Ona's dying, Jurgis crumbles. His love for Ona, which had been dimmed by the animal-like existence of Packingtown, surges back wildly in her last, dying moments. Jurgis feels she has been murdered and in a way, she has, for the family was unable to afford the medical care that might have saved her. For Jurgis, his eighteen-year-old bride embodied goodness and his dreams of a better future were intimately linked with his love for her. Now, Jurgis knows his dreams have been irrevocably lost.
A changed location has been used to illustrate the family's downslide. Thrown out of the house which embodied hope, Ona dies in the widow Jukniene's unheated, unlit garret, the worst place in her filthy boarding house. Sinclair uses Jurgis' discovery that the house is lost to reiterate many of the important events that have occurred in the book so far. It is an account of losses -- "Dede Antanas had died of the struggle", "Ona had given her health and strength to pay for it-she was wrecked and ruined because of it" , "[Jurgis], who had been a big and strong man three years ago...now sat shivering, broken, cowed, weeping." Jurgis finally begins to realize what the reader has known all along; that the family was doomed from day one, because "they were tied hand and foot - the law was against them, the whole machinery of society was at their oppressors' command!"
A minor character who makes a major impact is the midwife, Madame Haupt. Despite being greedy and self-centered, she does possess a trace of compassion. Once she realizes that Jurgis really does not have any money, she agrees to work for a reduced fee and accept a delayed payment, which she knows she is unlikely to get. However, constantly called upon to deliver children from weak, overworked, under-nourished mothers in the wretched environs of Packingtown, and almost always when it is too late, the midwife is inured to Jurgis' urgency and Ona's ultimate fate. Madame Haupt is a typical product of the stockyards, yet even this hardened character is appalled by the dog-like conditions in which Ona is forced to give birth.
Sinclair poignantly displays the strength of his female characters in the face of adversity in these chapters. The impoverished widow Jukniene and the other penurious women giving Jurgis money for the midwife is a splendid example of women's solidarity. The dying Ona's strength is made manifest when Madame Haupt tells Jurgis, "She fight hard, dot girl-she is not yet quite dead." Even the haggling midwife herself displays some strength of character when she finally decides to come, saying, "It is not goot to tink of anybody suffering." Jurgis, a man, is on the other hand shown to be weak; he cannot stand the ordeal of the labor and needs liquor to lose himself.