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Ostrinski is a Polish immigrant and socialist who speaks Lithuanian. When Jurgis first attends his transformative Socialist Party meeting, it is Ostrinski who explains the details of socialism to Jurgis. Ostrinski is also a factory worker; he labors for twelve hours a day at a clothing factory. Because the work is so detailed and the light is poor, Ostrinski is going blind. His wife also works, and he has young children. So he is teetering on the edge of disaster, just like all the other poor immigrant workers in Packingtown. Still, Ostrinski has found comfort in socialism, which explains why life is so hard for the working man in the American system. It is all because of competition: poor people compete with one another for jobs and wages, and they don't have any energy or time left over to demand fair treatment from their bosses. Ostrinski teaches Jurgis what it means to be a socialist and changes Jurgis's life forever.