Ona and Jurgis long to marry but Teta Elzbieta insists on having a traditional wedding feast, so they must wait till they can come up with enough money.
Despite the family's financial difficulty, tradition and cultural heritage are still very important to Teta Elzbieta.
A neighboring Lithuanian family, the Majauszkis, come over for a visit. Grandmother Majauszkiene, a socialist, tells them that their house is not new, but an old, cheaply built home and that the real estate agents are swindlers who bank on the probability that the tenants will not be able to pay their monthly dues and then seize and resell the homes. She informs them that four families of successive immigrant generations—German, Irish, Polish—have already lived in their home. Durham encourages these waves of immigration in order to prevent workers from joining together and striking. She relentlessly regales them with horrific stories, telling them that their house is unlucky and that its residents inevitably succumb to tuberculosis.
Grandmother Majauszkiene opens the eyes of the family to the realities of manipulation, trickery and corruption in Packingtown. A socialist, she describes how the owners of the plant lure immigrant workers to America and pit these workers against each other to prevent them from organizing. The workers are powerless to resist the bosses because there are always more workers to replace them. She contrasts the family's dreams of domestic bliss, which color their perception of reality, with a ghostly, grisly depiction of their home.
But the worst bit of news occurs when Grandmother Majauszkiene informs the family that they have to pay interest in addition to their rent. They pull out their deed in dismay and find out that it is true. They are devastated by this news, as it will place incredible financial burdens on them.
In order to cover the cost of interest, Ona and 14-year-old Stanislovas will have to go to work. Ona secures a job sewing covers on cans by bribing the forelady with a ten-dollar bill. The family get a certificate to say that 14-year-old Stanislovas is 16-years-old (the legal age to work). Stanislovas gets a job in a cellar placing cans under a lard machine, a task he will perform till "the end of his days." Despite these setbacks, the family perseveres and Jurgis and Ona are still in love.
Jurgis's hopes that Ona and the children will not have to work are defeated by the corrupt system. His strength was not enough to protect or provide for his family. The family is becoming keen to the ways of Packingtown and now realize that they have to bribe the forelady and produce fake documentation for Stanislovas to get what they want. Sinclair uses the example of Stanislovas to point to the widespread problem of child labor in American society.