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Free Study Guide-The Jungle by Upton Sinclair-Free Book Summary Notes
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CHAPTERS 29 - 31

Summary

After the meeting, Jurgis seeks out the orator to thank him. The orator asks Jurgis if he is interested in knowing more about Socialism. Jurgis says he wants to understand more of what he has heard. A Lithuanian-speaking Polish Socialist, Comrade Ostrinski, takes Jurgis home with him. Ostrinski is a pants-finisher and a family man. He hears Jurgis' story and tells him about Socialism. He explains to him that the competitive wage system keeps wages down, for the laborer has only his labor to sell, and cannot earn more than the most desperate is willing to work for. The working class members, or proletariat, will continue to remain poor, ignorant, and exploited, until they attain "class consciousness" -- awareness of their condition -- and overthrow their oppressors. Ostrinski tells him that the power of the Beef Trust is not a result of fate but by specific corrupt practices, which the Socialists are trying to teach people about and stop. The two talk for hours and late at night Jurgis lies upon Ostrinski's kitchen floor, haunted by visions of "the people of Packingtown marching in and taking possession of the Union Stockyards!"

The next morning, Jurgis goes to Elzbieta with his new message of Socialism. Elzbieta accepts him without any qualms. By a stroke of luck, Jurgis gets a porter's job at a hotel owned by a Socialist, Tommy Hinds. Discussion on Socialism abounds at the hotel and Jurgis is encouraged by Hinds to learn more and speak about his experiences. Jurgis is so charged by his new ideology that he rushes about trying to make converts and often gets into trouble. He cannot understand how people can believe Socialism to be uneconomical, when they do not benefit from the supposed economic efficiency of capitalism, or "paternalistic," when they themselves have worked for years without rest or hope.

Jurgis begins reading the "Appeal to Reason," a Socialist weekly. As elections approach, the Socialists are making an impact in Packingtown, and Jurgis helps in their campaign. He disrupts a Democratic party meeting and regales the audience with stories of how he bought votes for that party.


Settled in his job, Jurgis seeks out Marija and asks her to quit the brothel. She, however, says that she cannot leave and is destined to die there. Life at home is not very satisfactory, with Elzbieta ill and the children growing wild. However his political activity gives Jurgis great solace.

Jurgis is invited for a meeting at the home of Fisher, a Chicago millionaire and Socialist party supporter. A lively debate ensues at the meeting between Maynard, a newspaper editor, Lucas, an evangelist turned Socialist and Nicholas Schliemann, a Swedish university professor and revolutionary. Jurgis is impressed by the discussions, which cover a gamut of questions -- "the common ownership and democratic management" of the means of production, "the class-conscious political organization of the wage- earners", religion and its institutionalization, the principles of co- operative living and so on.

On the evening of election day, Jurgis joins other party members at a meeting. The Socialists have covered major ground in this election and have secured thrice the number of votes they got in the previous presidential election. Packingtown leads the way, setting an example for the rest of the nation, with the Socialist vote almost matching that of the Democrats. The meeting ends with rousing speeches.

Notes

The night that Jurgis spends in the cell, he envisions his last spark of humanity dying away. In sharp contrast, the night spent on Ostrinski's kitchen floor brings glorious dreams. Overnight, Jurgis' life has changed. Arguably, the change is too sudden and artificial and would have been more believable had it taken place over a longer period of time. Particular hard to believe and poorly dramatized is the reunion of Jurgis and Elzbieta. There is no dialogue in the passage; all of it is handled in summary narrative and the situation totally lacks emotional appeal.

This section of the novel details the minor theme of the novel, Socialism as an alternative to Capitalism, and large portions of it read less like a novel than a paper on Socialist ideology. The novel ceases to be a story of human drama and therefore loses its grip and power over the reader. The only element of the human story is the last talk between Marija and Jurgis. Sinclair also makes mention of the Appeal to Reason, the paper for which he undertook to document the working and living conditions in Chicago's stockyards.

The discussion at Fisher's residence deals with important and contentious issues crucial to Socialism; while historically and philosophically interesting, they do a poor job of fitting into a novel. The election described by Sinclair is, like the strike, a real historical event. In 1904, the Republican candidate and incumbent president, Theodore Roosevelt, was elected. The Socialist candidate, Eugene Debbs, made a small but noticeable showing. The novel ends on a hopeful note, with the slogan "Chicago will be ours!" However, the main character Jurgis is lost in this broader picture.

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