Ona's hysterical outbreaks continue, and she begins to resemble a frightened animal. As the holiday rush approaches, the family's jobs require them to work fifteen or sixteen hours each day.
The family sinks further and further into a dehumanizing grind. Their lives are dominated entirely by work.
A large snowstorm hits. Jurgis takes refuge in a saloon, and he comes home alone after a few drinks. That night, Ona fails to return home. The next morning, Jurgis waits anxiously for her at her work. Ona shows up and tells him that she stayed with a friend, Jadvyga Marcinkus, because she was unable to get home.
Even though the couple's jobs have worn them to the bone, Jurgis remains completely devoted to Ona, and is greatly distressed by her unexplained absence.
Ona does not come home another night, and Jurgis goes to look for her at Jadvyga's house. The Marcinkus family has no idea where Ona is, and tells Jurgis that she has never stayed with them before. Jurgis, upset at being deceived, looks for his wife instead of going to work. By chance, he spots her getting out of a car near their home. At home, Jurgis accosts his wife about her false alibi. She has another episode of wailing and convulsions. Finally, Ona confesses that her boss, Phil Connor, threatened to drive the family out of work if she did not sleep with him. He has been taking her to Miss Henderson's downtown house regularly, and is physically abusive.
In addition to forcing her to work in horrible conditions, Ona's job has violated her in a still more intimate way through Phil Connor's sexually exploitative behavior. Because Connor occupies an influential position in a corrupt system, he is able to commit moral wrongs with impunity—and innocent people like Ona must submit to him or risk losing everything. Her poverty makes her vulnerable to such exploitation, because she can't risk losing her job. She has no financial cushion.
Jurgis is overcome with rage. He goes straight to Ona's factory, where he viciously assaults Phil Connor. A number of workers pull Jurgis away, and the police are summoned to cart him off.
Jurgis's violent resistance to the oppressive factory system is ineffective, and quickly put to rest by the powerful, unsympathetic police.