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Jurgis goes to work shoveling fertilizer into carts. The dust in the place is so thick that Jurgis cannot see anything around him. He is given a sponge to cover his mouth so that he does not breathe in the fertilizer dust, but it cakes in his ears and eyes and nose. His skin is soon covered with it and he gets a headache. After a half-an-hour, Jurgis vomits “until it seems as if his inwards must be torn into shreds.” The boss tells him that a man will get used to the fertilizer shed if he puts his mind to it.
After his day’s work, Jurgis boards a train car to go home. All the passengers move away from him and soon they leave the car because of the stench. Jurgis smells so bad that, “it would have taken a week not merely of scrubbing, but of vigorous exercise, to get it out of him.” He smells so bad that, when at dinner that night, he causes the entire family to vomit. Jurgis sticks it out, however, and soon the physical pains become bearable and he becomes “a fertilizer-man for life.”