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Free Study Guide-The Jungle by Upton Sinclair-Free Book Summary Notes
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CHAPTERS 27 - 28

Summary

Jurgis soon runs out of money and, unable to get a job, is reduced to begging once again. He is also afraid of being recognized as a wanted man, but cannot afford to leave the city. The free soup kitchens and "stale-beer" dives keep him barely alive. One night he enters a hall where a Republican meeting is underway. The speaker is Senator Spareshanks, who had addressed the Doyle Republican Association. Since the hall is warm Jurgis falls asleep, snoring loudly. The people boot Jurgis out.

While asking for alms one day, Jurgis meets an old acquaintance from Packingtown, Alena Jasaityte. She gives Jurgis Marija's address. When Jurgis reaches the place on Clark Street he is told Marija does not live there. Just then the police swoop down on the house, which is actually a brothel. In the ensuing melee, Jurgis spots Marija. The police ask the girls to dress before leaving for the police station and so Marija takes Jurgis to her room.

Jurgis learns that Marija has been in the brothel for close to a year. This was her only option to save the family after Jurgis' desertion. She tells Jurgis in a matter of fact manner that Stanislovas was eaten up by rats when he fell asleep after work at the oil factory and got locked in. Marija also tells Jurgis that Tamoszius disappeared after he lost a finger to blood poisoning and could no longer play the fiddle. She believes that it was right of Ona to sleep with Connor; pride was not something people in their position could afford. Jurgis reluctantly agrees with this, but he does not tell Marija that his pride regarding Connor has once again cost him a job.

On learning that Jurgis is a wanted man, Marija tries to prevent him from getting arrested. However, the police round up everyone in the brothel. Jurgis gives a false name at the police station and spends the night in a cell, tormented by thoughts of his past life and all that he has lost.

In court the next day, Jurgis tells the judge he was at the brothel looking for his sister and is let off. The madame of the brothel pays off the fines for the girls, who also leave. Jurgis returns with Marija to her room. He discovers that she is a morphine addict. Life in the brothel is so exploitative, Marija can save nothing except the money she gives Elzbieta. She tells Jurgis how girls are trapped into prostitution and drug addiction. Marija gives Jurgis Elzbieta's new address and assures him that he will be welcomed back into the family.

Jurgis walks out of the brothel but is reluctant to return to Elzbieta without a job. Walking aimlessly, he chances into a meeting at the same hall from which he had been thrown out. Once again, Jurgis falls asleep, but this time he is not kicked out. Instead, a woman tells him sweetly, "If you would try to listen, comrade, perhaps you would be interested." Jurgis is stunned at being called a comrade and watches the woman as she listens mesmerized to the speaker on stage. Soon Jurgis too is caught up in the speech and is deeply affected by it.


The speaker is a socialist. He speaks of the injustice the workers have suffered and tells them that they have the power to change their situation if only they "open their eyes." He tells them how hundreds of thousands suffer in near slavery so that a few thousand can live in idleness and luxury. Those who do the labor of society do not share in the fruits of their labor. The capitalist class has bought the government and convinced the workers that their situation is unchangeable, but the power to overthrow the system is in their hands. When the workers throw off their chains and rise up, they will be able to overthrow their oppressors. The speaker has shed a new light on Jurgis' life, and he stands up shouting with the crowd.

Notes

Once again, Jurgis has been used up and tossed away. After attacking Connor, a higher-up in the system, Jurgis is no longer wanted. This is poignantly illustrated in the scene where Jurgis the tramp is booted out of the Republican meeting, and someone cheers, "We're just firing a bum."

The most important development in this part of the novel is the transformation of Marija. Life has hardened her and forced the cheery, courageous girl into prostitution. She blandly recounts the shocking death of Stanislovas and the disappearance of her sweetheart, Tamoszius. Perhaps, like Jurgis she too has learnt to bury her emotions. She also points out to Jurgis the folly of his ways with Ona. Says Marija, "When people are starving and they have anything with a price, they ought to sell it, I say. I guess you realize it now when it's too late. Ona could have taken care of all of us in the beginning." Jurgis hesitantly accepts her logic with a, "I- yes, I guess so." But he does not quite understand. His anger at Connor has once again cost him a good job and he still feels that Marija's position is shameful, though, logically, he knows he is in no position to judge.

The meeting with Marija shocks Jurgis' long-dead conscience back to life. He is now in a heightened emotional state and is haunted by emotions, which he had earlier successfully battled. In the prison cell, Jurgis reflects on what he has made of his life: "He heard the old voices of his soul, he saw its old ghosts beckoning to him, stretching out their arms to him! But they were far off and shadowy, and the gulf between them was black and bottomless; they would fade away and never again would he hear them-and so the last faint spark of manhood in his soul would flicker out."

Sinclair suggests that this reawakening is the last chance that Jurgis has and if he cannot make something of it, he will be lost forever. In this heightened emotional condition, Jurgis will find himself at the socialist rally and will be receptive to what he hears there.

Sinclair has used the unnamed orator's speech as a device to convey the tenets of Socialism with tremendous force and feeling. "Workingmen, workingmen-comrades! Open your eyes and look about you! You have lived so long in the toil and heat that your senses are dulled, your souls are numbed; but realize once in your lives this world in which you dwell-tear off the rags of its customs and conventions-behold it as it is, in all its hideous nakedness! Realize it, realize it." The speech is almost directed to Jurgis, who has suffered so much of the misery the speaker describes in his own life and has also allowed himself to be blindly used by his enemies. The speech is a new turning point in Jurgis' life, for it brings him not only the realization of how he has been used by the system, but also the suggestion that he might be able to successfully fight the system.

Previously, Sinclair showed Jurgis' only choices as either to struggle fruitlessly and starve to maintain his integrity or to give up his humanity and decency and begin working the system. Now, Sinclair reveals his hand and suggests a third possibility, Socialism, as a response. Jurgis has yet to learn what Socialism is, but he is moved by its goals, nonetheless.

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