With hopes of having a better life, a Lithuanian couple and their family set out to seek the "American Dream", only to find out later, that it becomes an "American Disaster". With his newly married wife, Ona and other relatives by his side, Jurgis, a Lithuanian immigrant makes his way to Chicago, optimistic that he has found success. Chicago at the time was a very sluggish impoverished society. Most of the agriculture involved meat packing and/or slaughtering hogs. This lifestyle, however, did not dismay Jurgis who ends up taking several jobs at these types of factories, especially, when things become unfortunate for his family. Jurgis is first introduced to the town of Packingtown, where he easily finds work and shelter for his family
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As the family learns of the additional taxes for the house, Ona becomes pregnant with her and Jurgis's first child. They have a little boy and name him Antanas after Jurgis's father. Not fully recovered, Ona returns to work only a week after giving birth in order to save her position at the factory. After spraining his ankle and unable to work for three months, Jurgis relies on his family members to provide the support they need. Some of the children are forced to get jobs, the women also seek employment, and others family members just walk out and never return. Frustrated and depressed, Jurgis resorts to alcohol to succumb his problems. Later, Jurgis finds out that Ona is pregnant a second time, but to his surprise she is also a prostitute for her boss at the factory. Hearing this news, lands Jurgis in jail for thirty days due to the outrageous beating he put on Ona's boss.
After Jurgis is released from prison, he finds that his house has been sold and that his family is living in a boarding house with other families. To make matter worse, Ona's and Jurgis second child has died and Ona is slowly dying after giving birth. Ona eventually dies, but Jurgis must be strong and find a job for the sake of their son Antanas. Between searching for and working odd jobs, Jurgis musters a position at a steel mill company that is quite a distance from the boarding house. As things are getting