| Quote #4
Jurgis lost his temper very little, however, all things considered. It was because of Ona; the least glance at her was always enough to make him control himself. She was so sensitive – she was not fitted for such a life as this; and a hundred times a day, when he thought of her, he would clench his hands and fling himself again at the task before him. She was too good for him, he told himself, and he was afraid, because she was his. So long he had hungered to possess her, but now that the time had come he knew that he had not earned the right; that she trusted him so was all her own simple goodness, and no virtue of his. (7.4)
Both Jurgis and Ona seem to suffer from the belief that they have to suffer in silence to protect one another. Jurgis never really talks to Ona about the rage that sends him drinking and that makes him start to beat Stanislovas, and Ona doesn't willingly talk to Jurgis about Connor's sexual harassment. Why doesn't Ona tell Jurgis what she is suffering at work? What is the origin of the gulf between these two people? As with so much else in this novel, do the problems in their marriage have a social explanation based in Sinclair's criticism of American capitalism? Or is it more personal?
| Quote #5
He had heard dreadful stories of the midwives, who grow as thick as fleas in Packingtown; and he had made up his mind that Ona must have a man-doctor. Jurgis could be very obstinate when he wanted to, and he was in this case, much to the dismay of the women, who felt that a man-doctor was an impropriety, and that the matter really belonged to them. The cheapest doctor they could find would charge them fifteen dollars, and perhaps more when the bill came in; and here was Jurgis, declaring that he would pay it, even if he had to stop eating in the meantime! (10.10)
On what grounds does Jurgis disagree with "the women" about hiring a "man-doctor"? What might be Jurgis's reasons for wanting a "man-doctor" instead of leaving Ona's childbirth to more traditional methods? How does Ona's first birth compare to her second one? Who witnesses each birth?
| Quote #6
She had about made up her mind that she was a lost soul, when somebody told her of an opening, and she went and got a place as a "beef-trimmer." She got this because the boss saw that she had the muscles of a man, and so he discharged a man and put Marija to do his work, paying her a little more than half what he had been paying before. (10.12)
Oddly, although the gap is closing, according to government statistics, women on average are still making less than men (source). Marija does the same job as a man, but her boss can still get away with paying her half as much. Marija has been such a firebrand – remember how she came to the States after beating the crap out of her abusive boss? What has happened to her up to this point that has made her willing to accept such low wages? How has the system started to wear down her expectations? Why might an impersonal system like American capitalism be harder for Marija to resist than a single abusive boss?