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Winter comes to Chicago, and just as the storms of snow and hail kill the weaker trees and plants that fight for sunlight, so too does winter find and kill the weaker members of Packingtown. Each winter thousands die of pneumonia, grippe, tuberculosis, or consumption. Thousands of new workers still come trying to find jobs, and they are left freezing in the cold, waiting for a chance to do work.
Outside of the factories are saloons. These places offer the men a hot meal on their lunch breaks with the condition that they all must drink while they eat. These saloons are also union headquarters, so each man is treated well as long as they pay for their drinks. Drinking helps the day go by a bit faster, and it helps the men stay warm. Once work is over, however, they find they are cold again and must stop into the saloons again. If a wife and her children become worried about the man, they might venture out to find him and wander into the saloons as well, “and so a whole family would drift into drinking.” Jurgis takes a drink at lunch but becomes known as a surly fellow and goes straight home after his shift.