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Free Study Guide-The Jungle by Upton Sinclair-Free Book Summary Notes
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CHAPTER 12

Summary

Jurgis is bedridden for three weeks due to the injury. When he returns to work, he is unable to stand the pain. Two men help him home, and he is put to bed. The doctor diagnoses the injury as a twisted tendon, which never heals without attention. After fixing the ankle the doctor insists Jurgis spend another two months in bed, unless he wants to risk becoming permanently lame.

Stanislovas' fingers freeze in a snowstorm. He comes home screaming with pain and howls until Jurgis threatens to kill him. The first joints of three of Stanislovas' fingers are left permanently disabled and he becomes so fearful of going to work in the snow that Jurgis must beat him every morning to get him to go. Jurgis becomes more bitter and dispirited.

In the middle of the winter, Jonas disappears one day and the family is unable to find him. It is most likely that he has abandoned them and taken to the road. Without his income, two more of the children, Vilimas and Nikalojus, have to leave school and begin selling newspapers.

Due to his long illness, Jurgis gets used to lying around the house. Ona is having a very hard time at work and her health, both physical and mental, is worsening. She is hurt that Jurgis does not even notice her hardships and begins doubting his love for her. Towards the end of April, Jurgis is allowed to return to work, but he has lost his job at the killing beds. The company does not feel obliged to employ him despite the accident, for they do not consider themselves responsible for it. No longer strong and healthy, he is unable to find fresh work.

Notes

What happens to scores of other workers now happens to the invincible Jurgis. He is reduced to being a spent force and Packingtown has no use for him. On his very first day in Packingtown, Jurgis had bagged a job in half an hour, for he was strong, powerful, young and healthy. Now, after he has been sapped and injured by the packers, they have no use for him. Jurgis realizes that the killing beds have taken "the best of him" and that, moreover, his case is not unique; thousands of others like him have been used up and discarded in the same way.


Ona lives through her torment alone. Feeling unloved and forced to work in an atmosphere she detests, she begins to break down. Already plagued by myriad health problems because of her early return to work after Antanas' birth, Ona is now becoming prone to fits of weeping. Afraid of Jurgis' temper and driven by the desperate need to hold onto her job, she keeps her misery to herself. The reader can sense that there is worse to come and there are clear indications that her end is nearing. Despite their earlier love, Jurgis is now selfish and inconsiderate. The dreams they had when they first came to Packingtown have vanished.

Evidently, it is hard to keep sentiment alive in such a life. Both the intrinsic qualities of the two main characters -- Jurgis' vitality and Ona's goodness -- are robbed from them by the system. Jurgis' attitude towards Stanislovas also changes -- from wanting to educate him, to reluctantly putting him to work, to finally beating him in order to get him to work. This change illustrates how circumstances can shape a person. No sooner is there some happiness and stability for the family, then disaster strikes again. Even the children are altered by life in Packingtown. Vilimas and Nikalojus, who begin the chapter as utter innocents, soon learn the tricks of the trade of the newspaper business, and become adept at both cheating and defending themselves from cheats. Like many in Packingtown, the children feel no remorse at robbing the system, because they know the system is a thief.

Sinclair attempts to show how women have to bear the greater burden of suffering and are also stronger than the men. Between Jurgis and Ona, it is the latter who suffers far more and keeps silent for the sake of the family, while Jurgis gets used to lying around and takes his anger out on others. While Marija remains loyal to the family through thick and thin, sacrificing her own happiness in the process, Jonas runs away.

In terms of style, the use of the seasonal cycle to illustrate the impediments and predicaments in the lives of the immigrants is somewhat repetitive and artificial. Throughout the novel, Sinclair engages in far more narration than dialogue, more "telling" than "showing." As a result, the reader may sometimes feel that his characters are mere puppets, reacting to the trials he throws at them, rather than actors engaged in dealing with their circumstances. Of course, Sinclair's literary aspirations here are probably secondary to his social and political ones. His main concern is to detail the abuses of the packing industry and the society that surrounds it. While the yearly cycle of tragedies the family suffers may at times seem overwrought, it is a fair amalgamation of the experience of many of Packingtown's immigrants.

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