For ten days, the children support the family while Jurgis looks for work. Teta Elzbieta's one-legged son Juozapas resorts to scavenging for food at the dump.
Things have gotten so bad during Jurgis's unemployment that the children are forced to take on the brunt of the family's burden.
While Jurgis is out looking for work, a wealthy, well-dressed woman begins asking questions about his life. The day after talking to Jurgis, the wealthy woman visits the family at the tenement. She calls herself a "settlement worker," and is horrified by the living conditions the immigrants endure. To help them out of their destitution, she gives the family food and arranges for Jurgis to be hired by her fiancée, a superintendent at a steelworks in South Chicago.
The woman belongs to a real political movement of the era, the settlement movement, which sought to get the rich and poor in society to live more closely and interdependently. It primarily attempted to create "settlement houses" in poor urban areas, in which volunteer middle-class "settlement workers" like this woman would live and try to share knowledge and culture with, and alleviate the poverty of, their low-income neighbors. This was not a socialist movement, but rather a reform movement that sought to work within capitalism.
The steelworks are hellish, hectic, and so far from Jurgis's boardinghouse that he can only make it home on the weekends. Jurgis quickly becomes indifferent to his grisly, dangerous work.
Jurgis is once again deadened mentally and isolated from his family as a result of his work. Even though the work gives him money, it separates him from his family.
Baby Antanas has learned to talk, and Jurgis loves him unconditionally. Jurgis, too, has taken to reading the Sunday newspaper to work on his English. Winter is changing to spring, and Jurgis is relatively comfortable and hopeful for the future.
Jurgis returns home one weekend and is confronted by a chaotic scene, reminiscent of when Ona died. He then learns that Baby Antanas has drowned in the rainy street.
Like many times before, the family's apparent progress is abruptly erased by a senseless, unfair disaster, and the novel suggests that such disasters are much more likely to befall the poor because of the awful conditions in which they are forced to live and work and their lack of any kind of safety net to protect them.