Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers
THE STORY, continued
This chapter is partly an expose of the "spoiled-meat industry" and partly an examination of the general gloom that has settled over the Rudkus household.
Elzbieta becomes an example of the theme that the poor often work against their best interests. She now makes the type of sausage that may have killed Kristoforas. Among the ingredients are spoiled and doctored meat; dirt, sawdust, and tuberculosis germs; rat dung, rat poison, and even the rats themselves! No wonder The Jungle outraged Americans in 1906!
A pall has fallen over the family. The adults rarely talk to each other. All they have to look forward to are six punishing years before they're free of house payments. As for Ona and Jurgis, "their moods so seldom came together.... It was as if their hopes were buried in separate graves."
Jurgis starts to drink to ease his pain. But he stops when he sees his family's despair. From then on, nearly every moment "consisted of a struggle with the craving for liquor."
We do not see the struggle, of course, because Sinclair does not dramatize it. Yet we are told about it convincingly, perhaps because Sinclair had seen drunkenness in his own home. (His father died from alcoholism a month after The Jungle appeared.)
Ona is pregnant again and "visibly going to pieces." She has a cough- the fear is of consumption.
Two similes from the animal world crop up in the first paragraph to remind us of the symbolism suggested by the book's title. Ona has a look in her eye that seems to Jurgis "like the eye of a hunted animal." Jurgis "lives like a dumb beast of burden."
He worries about Ona's frequent outbreaks. She's holding back "some terrible thing"; he's sure of it.
Just before Thanksgiving, Ona fails to come home. It was the snowstorm, she explains the next morning. It stopped the trolleys, so she stayed with a friend, Jadvyga Marcinkus.
A month later Ona again fails to come home. Jurgis goes to Jadvyga's, but Ona isn't there. What's more, he learns, she never spent a night there.
He visits the place where Ona works, to speak to Ona's forelady, but Miss Henderson has not shown up. The trolley lines from downtown haven't been working since the previous night.
In the afternoon, Jurgis heads home and spots Ona on a trolley. He watches her enter their house, then follows. Ona confesses that she spent the night at Miss Henderson's. Jurgis knows that Henderson lives in a brothel with Phil Connor, head of the loading gang.
Enraged, he nearly strangles Ona. She explains that Connor had threatened that her family would lose their jobs unless she submitted to him. Then he raped her and forced her to visit the brothel with him.
Ona knows what Jurgis will do. "You will kill him- and we shall die."
Jurgis takes off "breathing hoarsely, like a wounded bull." At the yards, he finds his prey and lunges for "the great beast." A dozen men drag him off, and he is arrested. But Jurgis has the passion of a jungle animal. He has sunk "his teeth into the man's cheek; and when they tore him away he was dripping with blood, and little ribbons of skin were hanging in his mouth."
Sinclair's dramatization of the events in this chapter is a welcome change from so many chapters of straight summary narrative.
In this chapter Sinclair will announce another turning point for Jurgis- "the beginning of his rebellion, of his outlawry and his unbelief." He will also portray American justice as "a sham and a loathsome mockery."
When he is booked for assault and battery, Jurgis is careful not to provoke the police. The lions of the jungle, their station house is "their inmost lair." "It was as much a man's very life was worth to anger them."
In his cell, Jurgis wrestles with his conscience. He realizes he has made things worse for Ona and little Antanas and blames himself for not protecting her from "a fate which every one knew to be so common." She will never get over her adultery, he fears. "The shame of it would kill her." It's a blunt foreshadowing of her fate.
In the morning Jurgis is arraigned in front of the notorious Justice Callahan. Callahan's nickname, "Growler" Pat, labels him a jungle dweller. Sinclair uses a vivid metaphor to tell us once again that American justice is in the service of business: "If Scully was the thumb, Pat Callahan was the first finger of the unseen hand whereby the packers held down the people of the district."
A company lawyer asks Callahan to hold Jurgis for a week. Callahan quickly orders Jurgis held on $300 bail- almost a year's wage!
His first night at the county jail Jurgis can't sleep. He paces "like a wild beast that breaks its teeth on the bars of its cage."
Church bells remind him that it's Christmas Eve, and a rush of poignant memories come to mind. He rails against society, which has destroyed his life, and his family and jailed him "as if he had been a wild beast." He's still too naive to trace his problems to the nation's competitive economic system with its attendant evils. All he knows is that "society, with all its powers, had declared itself his foe."
Imprisonment has changed his outlook. His rebellion has begun. Sinclair calls on the poet Oscar Wilde to explain why. In prison, Wilde wrote in his 1898 poem "The Ballad of Reading Gaol": "It is only what is good in Man / That wastes and withers there."
Sinclair structures this chapter in an unusually absorbing way. He gives us three dramatic scenes- one comic, one bitter, one pathetic- and connects each scene with a passage of exposition.
NOTE: THE NATURALIST VIEW OF MARRIAGE
According to the Naturalists, marriage is a trap that men are forced into by their sexual urge. Jurgis once believed this. In chapter 2 we read, "Jurgis had never expected to get married- he had laughed at it as a foolish trap for a man to walk into."
It's a trap for Jurgis and other workingmen because the need to support a family makes the workingman vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation, another Sinclair theme. Duane foresees the day when Jurgis will "give up the fight and shift for himself."
Exposition. Duane regales Jurgis with his adventures and expands Jurgis's world by introducing him to other prisoners- animals in this "Noah's ark of the city's crime." (Like many metaphors, this one falls apart when you examine it too closely. The jail, unlike the ark, saves no one, although some do view it as a brief respite from the outside world.) Sinclair then switches metaphors, calling the prisoners "the drainage of the great festering ulcer of society"- an ugly symptom of an economic system that's based on greed, and a political system that is corrupt. Everything in this society is for sale, including "justice and honor, women's bodies and men's souls."
Notice how frequently Sinclair conjures up the animal world. In Chicago, "human beings writhed and fought and fell upon each other like wolves in a pit." The fighting and lusts and corruption are a "wild-beast tangle."
Sinclair defends the prisoners' nonchalant attitude toward imprisonment. Being in prison is no disgrace to them: they know that "the game had never been fair, the dice were loaded." Besides, the real criminals are "the swindlers and thieves of millions of dollars"- the packers and their henchmen.
Exposition. Jurgis ends up in another jail, the Bridewell, and spends 10 days breaking stone- a welcome relief from his cellmate, a quarrelsome Norwegian sailor.
Released from prison, Jurgis walks the twenty miles back to Chicago, Compare this trek with the trolley ride that took him and the family to Packingtown the day after they arrived in Chicago. This journey is also leading him to a new life. However, the satanic symbolism of chapter 2 is gone, and Jurgis is a different person- weary, less naive, with fewer illusions.
Still, dangers are everywhere. Unpaved paths are "treacherous with deep slush holes." Each railroad crossing is "a death trap for the unwary." In the center of the city, sooty snow has made the streets "sewers of inky blackness, with horses slipping and plunging."
Jurgis avoids these traps only to discover the jaws of one snapped shut. His house has been repainted and sold; his family has moved back to square one- Aniele Jukniene's lodging house.
The history of their suffering rushes through Jurgis's mind. The house was a reason for their sacrifice, and now it has become a symbol of that sacrifice.
At Aniele's lodging house, Jurgis finds Ona in the throes of premature childbirth. She prays for death.
Jurgis realizes they have no doctor, no midwife. "We- we have no money," Marija whispers. He collects $1.25 from the women sitting downstairs and rushes out to find a midwife.
NOTE: MEDICAL CARE FOR THE POOR
In Madame Haupt, the midwife, Sinclair creates one of the novel's most convincing characters. Take a few moments to study the way he approaches her.
He begins dropping clues about her in the first sentence. We have an idea of her circumstances from the fact that she lives "over a saloon," at the top of a "dingy flight of steps."
When we meet her, she's "frying pork and onions" in a smoky room and drinking from a "black bottle." Sinclair describes her as "enormously fat" and dressed in "a filthy blue wrapper"; her teeth are black. With this woman as Ona's only hope, we know that Ona is going to die.
And yet, Madame Haupt is a comic figure. She is a grotesque- a clown so bizarre and repulsive that she makes us respond with nervous laughter. She is pretentious; she refers to a job as a "case." She is vain; before going out, she adjusts her black bonnet until it sits just right. She is also a glutton and a money-grubber, the very personification of greed.
Still, she has a heart. Even though Jurgis can't meet her price, she agrees to go with him because she doesn't like to think of anyone suffering.
After leading Madame Haupt to Aniele's, Jurgis goes to a saloon, where a generous saloon-keeper gives him food and drink and a dry stairway to sleep in. Near dawn, he goes to Aniele's, where the midwife blames him for not getting a doctor earlier. She speaks callously to Jurgis. Ona "will die," she says. "Der baby is dead now."
Up in the garret, Ona recognizes Jurgis just before she dies. Kotrina returns home in the morning with three dollars she earned selling papers. Jurgis uses the money to get drunk.
Elzbieta begs enough money from neighbors for a requiem mass for Ona. But they are too poor to bury her, and the city buries her in potter's field.
Elzbieta convinces Jurgis to stay and take care of little Antanas. Having been blacklisted, Jurgis can't get a job in Packingtown- another example of the power of the Beef Trust to control a worker's life. Blacklisting, Sinclair says, is "a warning to the men, and a means of keeping down union agitation and political discontent."
Jurgis lands a job with a farm equipment manufacturer- another giant factory, this time part of the Harvester Trust. The job allows Sinclair to shine his critic's lamp on another industry, enforcing his point is that it's the entire economic system, not just the meat-packing industry, that toys with workers' lives.
Jurgis's new job is in a modern, well-designed plant with a restaurant, a reading room, and spacious workshops. Yet the men are paid by the piece, requiring them to work at breakneck speed to earn a living. Sinclair explains all about piecework in a muckraking passage that ends: "If we are the greatest nation the sun ever shone upon, it would seem to be mainly because we have been able to goad our wage- earners to the pitch of a frenzy."
Sinclair muckrakes the trolley companies, too. This "street-car monopoly" avoids giving transfers to commuters like Jurgis, who must ride more than one line to get to work. Jurgis chooses, instead, to walk.
Jurgis's new job allows him to "pick up heart again and to make plans." But after nine days his department is closed to allow the demand for farm equipment to catch up with the supply.
This chapter marks another turning point in Jurgis's life- he is now released from the family obligations that made it easy for bosses, politicians, and con men to use him. Before making that break complete, however, Sinclair again batters his hero with another series of psychological, physical, and economic setbacks.
Jurgis is heartbroken at his layoff from the farm equipment plant, but the experience has taught him something valuable. There's something wrong when industrialists as "enlightened" as the managers of the harvester plant can't protect their workers' jobs. "It had happened that way before, said the men, and it would happen that way forever." What Sinclair is suggesting- and Jurgis doesn't quite understand- is that the boom-bust rhythms of the capitalist economic system are absurd. The reward for a man's "doing his duty too well" during boom periods is "only to be turned out to starve" during bust periods.
Jurgis returns to the streets, "begging for any work." At night he sleeps in a police station with other homeless men. For food, he is totally dependent on Elzbieta's children, who give him a little money every day.
Another of Elzbieta's children, the crippled Juozapas, is responsible for his finding another job. While poking around Mike Scully's dump for food, Juozapas meets a settlement worker. Note Sinclair's sarcastic view of these early social workers: "rich people who came to live there to find out about the poor people." This one wears "a long fur snake around her neck" and cries on Elzbieta's shoulder at the family's tale of woe. But through her Jurgis gets a job at a steel mill in South Chicago.
Jurgis is taken on a tour of the plant. Once more, Sinclair gives a fascinating description of an industrial process. Note the poetic images Sinclair uses: Cauldrons of molten iron are "big enough for all the devils of hell to brew their broth in." "Iron bands" seize "iron prey." A steel rail is made from an ingot "the size of a man's body." "In the grip of fate," this "body" is transformed into "a great red snake escaped from purgatory." The factory seems like a torture chamber in hell. And it is here, moving rails, that Jurgis ends up.
After three weeks on the job, Jurgis one day rushes to aid fellow workers who have been splattered by molten iron, and injures his hand. The reward for his heroism? He is "laid up for eight working days without pay."
To save transportation costs, Jurgis had been living near the plant, returning to Aniele's only for Saturday night and Sunday. With his new job, however, Jurgis can spend long hours with little Antanas and delight in his growth.
With his return to work, he begins "to make plans and dream dreams" again. It's a warning: The last time he allowed himself that luxury, he lost his job at the harvester plant. This time, after a heavy rain one day while Jurgis is at work, Antanas drowns in the flooded street in front of Aniele's house.
Jurgis has hit bottom. But he has also been liberated (from the burden of family).
The death of Ona and now of his little son Antanas triggers a crisis in Jurgis's life. No more tenderness, no more tears- signs of weakness that "had sold him into slavery!" Instead he vows to transform himself- to become a new man by purging the past from his system. He's no longer going to think of others; he's going to be selfish, like every other animal in the jungle.
How does he change? Out in the country, he waves "derisively" at a brakeman who swears at him. He takes a long bath in a deep stream. The bath is symbolic: Jurgis scours his body and his clothes to wash away the past. He commits an act of vandalism against a farmer who is rude to him. The act- ripping up more than a hundred newly planted peach trees- is symbolic, too: "It showed his mood; from now on he was fighting, and the man who hit him would get all that he gave, every time."
Now that he is on his own, he is free to refuse work. When farmers offer him full-time work, he turns them down.
Jurgis's experience as a hobo is no more unique than his other experiences. He is part of an army of "surplus labor"- men and women who migrate from one temporary job to another. The women who follow this army are prostitutes, who have sacrificed youth and beauty and been cast aside like their used-up male counterparts.
However, Jurgis is unsuccessful in crushing the caring, warm person within him. His old self triumphs over the heartless new man that he tried to will himself to be. Overcome with grief for his dead son and wife, he hides in the woods like a sick animal and weeps.
Yet there is no going back. Ona and Antanas are gone. And he is a new man, though not the heartless one he wanted to become.
Cold weather ends Jurgis's freedom and sends him back to Chicago. He gets a job digging a tunnel for a subway freight line, part of a scheme by Chicago merchants to break the union of teamsters who haul goods above ground. The merchants have bought off city councilmen to get them to approve the plan. This is one more example of Sinclair's theme that politicians and businessmen conspire to keep workers powerless and poor. The fact that Jurgis is a party to the scheme suggests another familiar motif. In their struggle for survival, workers often unknowingly labor against their best interests.
After six weeks Jurgis ends up in the hospital with a job injury. After Christmas- the "pleasantest Christmas he had ever had in America"- he is discharged from the hospital even though he is destitute and has no place to stay. In its own way, this public institution is just as heartless as industry!
For warmth, he spends a lot of time in saloons and even visits a mission one night, suffering through a sermon on "sin and redemption." Sinclair shows his contempt for preachers: they are "part of the order established that was crushing men down and beating them." They try to save souls when what they should be saving- with jobs, food, and shelter- are bodies. After the sermon, the homeless are sent out into the snow and must wait an hour before they can go into the police station for the night.
Jurgis becomes a beggar, though not a successful one. Some of the "pros" have "comfortable homes, and families, and thousands of dollars in the banks," we're told. Compared to them, Jurgis is "a blundering amateur."
Even as a beggar, the need for warmth keeps him close to saloons. People who give him handouts are annoyed to see him dart inside a saloon. But, as Sinclair explains, there's no place else for beggars to go for cheap food or drink and a feeling of home.
This chapter consists of two parts. The brief section is a summary of Jurgis's current understanding of the world. The second, longer part contains the book's longest dramatized scene- the story of the one "adventure" of Jurgis's life.
Jurgis now sees civilization as "a world in which nothing counted but brutal might." Wandering about the streets, darting into bars to keep warm, he feels as though he has "lost in the fierce battle of greed." In his despair, he believes there is "no place for him anywhere," and that he is "doomed to be exterminated."
And then something happens that seems at first to contradict that gloomy diagnosis. While begging, he meets Freddie Jones, the 18-year-old son of one of the big meat packers. Freddie's parents have gone abroad; he's footloose, drunk, and "a'most busted"- down to his last $2000! When he hears that Jurgis has no place to stay, he invites Jurgis home and gives him a hundred dollar bill to pay for the cab. When they reach the mansion, Freddie orders the butler, Hamilton, to pay the cabbie, so Jurgis gets to keep the $100.
Freddie is delighted, to learn that Jurgis once worked for Freddie's father. Misunderstanding relations between management and labor in Packingtown, Freddie says, "Great fren's with the men, guv'ner- labor and capital, commun'ty 'f int'rests, an' all that-" That particular misunderstanding is magnified when Freddie prices everything in the dining room. We learn that his father paid $3000 for each dining room chair- more than an unskilled worker can earn at Jones & Company in six years!
Jurgis devours a meal and drinks a full bottle of champagne while Freddie looks on in wonder. He tells Jurgis about his brother's love affair and his sister's marriage to an Italian marquis. Hearing those tales, you can't help but think about the children in Jurgis's family.
When Freddie passes out, Hamilton orders Jurgis to leave. At the door, the butler wants to search him, but Jurgis won't allow it. He has taken nothing except the $100 bill. Still, keeping the money is stealing of a sort- the first Jurgis has ever done.
NOTE: A PLAY ON NAMES
These readers must have chuckled at the butler's name, too. This cantankerous servant bears the last name of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury and a strong backer of business interests.
This chapter- divided into four dramatized scenes and three sections of largely summary narrative- is a kind of how-to on political chicanery as well as a tour of Chicago's criminal underworld. The chapter serves Sinclair's ends as propagandist and muckraker, because it shows how politics and crime are inextricably linked to each other and to legitimate business.
When Jurgis tries to change the hundred-dollar bill in a saloon, the bartender shortchanges him and Jurgis attacks him. A policeman knocks Jurgis senseless and takes him to jail.
In court the next day Jurgis tells the truth, but it does him no good. The judge sentences him to ten days in the county jail plus court costs.
Jurgis can't fathom the injustice. But Sinclair explains the situation to us: The cop regularly takes graft from the saloon owner, and the judge is indebted to the bartender, the Democratic party "henchman" who helped hustle votes to reelect him.
In jail, Jurgis meets Jack Duane once more. He realizes he has a lot in common with Duane and the other prisoners, and after he is released, he joins Duane. Their first "job" together is a street mugging during which their victim is badly hurt; this unsettles Jurgis. But to Duane, "It's a case of us or the other fellow," justifying all crime with the law of the jungle.
Soon Duane is introducing Jurgis to the "saloons and 'sporting houses,'" where Chicago's criminal elite hangs out. From this vantage point, he begins to understand how rotten the municipal government is. The city is "owned by an oligarchy of business men" and is only "nominally ruled by the people." The business interests pay graft to everyone, from legislators and lawyers to union leaders and newspaper editors and city employees. For a price, the police permit everything illegal, from Sunday drinking to prostitution.
A political regular named Buck Halloran gives Jurgis a glimpse of the way criminals live off the city. He pays Jurgis $5 to pick up city paychecks for a list of imaginary workers. Then Jurgis learns the definition of "pull," when Halloran has Jurgis freed from jail after he is arrested for a drunken fight. Jurgis is grateful- all the more so, because, in his new status, he doesn't want to stay among "stinking" bums at the police station. How quickly the change! Not long ago, Jurgis was one of those bums, fighting for a place on the station floor.
When Jurgis becomes Mike Scully's man at Durham's, he learns how easy it is to dupe workers. Because he fears that the unpopularity of the Democratic candidate for alderman may cause voters to switch parties, Scully, the Democratic boss of the stockyards district, has struck an intricate deal with his Republican rivals. If the Republicans promise to run no one against Scully in next year's race for alderman, Scully will back this year's Republican choice for the post. There's one hitch: the Republican candidate is to be one of Scully's friends.
NOTE: JURGIS AND SOCIALISM
Jurgis's work to stem the growth of the Socialist vote reinforces one of Sinclair's familiar motifs: Workers are often ignorant of their own best interests and continually take steps to defeat them.
At Scully's behest Jurgis returns to the stockyards to drum up support among the workers for the Republican candidate, Scotty Doyle, who will "represent the workingmen." A letter from Scully gets Jurgis a job as hog trimmer at Durham's.
On election day, Jurgis spends hundreds of dollars buying votes for Doyle. He votes six times himself. When Doyle wins, Jurgis gets drunk. Is he again using alcohol to numb his conscience?
The workers celebrate too, believing that the "power of the common people" has prevailed. Sarcastically, Sinclair speaks of "this triumph of popular government."
As the chapter begins, Jurgis is still at Durham's, able to carouse and yet save a third of his earnings. As the chapter ends, he's back on the street, an outcast once more, with only a few dollars to his name.
In this chapter, Sinclair focuses our attention on a nationwide strike by packing-house workers. Like the real strike led by the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen in 1904, this one fails. Sinclair explains his theme: Unionism is not the answer to the workers' problems, because the packers have the army of surplus labor as scabs. They have the government and its agents in their pockets. They have a natural ally in the newspapers that sway public opinion to their side. And they have the allegiance of opportunists like Jurgis, who use the strike as a chance to get ahead.
Still a naif when it comes to choosing sides, Jurgis at first walks out with the rest of the men. He goes to see Scully about a temporary job, but Scully can't help him. Jurgis has no alternative but to become a scab and help the packers break the strike.
NOTE: THE "NEW 'AMERICAN HEROES'"
In his eagerness to prove Eliot wrong, Sinclair may have gone overboard. "...the new American hero," he says, "contained an assortment of the criminals and thugs of the city, besides Negroes and the lowest foreigners.... They had been attracted more by the prospect of disorder than by the big wages."
Jurgis develops most of the characteristics of scabs that Sinclair disdains. He becomes a thug, venturing outside the yards to beat up strikers. On one such outing, he joins police in breaking up a saloon and cleaning out the cash drawer.
He becomes a boss on the killing beds for $5 a day and is told he can keep the job after the strike. Workers pay him to look the other way when they commit infractions. On off hours, he gambles and drinks.
Although he gets "used to being a master of men," he never completely loses his sense of right and wrong. He despises himself for being a scab and takes out his self-hatred on the men, driving "them until they were ready to drop with exhaustion." And when he meets Connor again, he tries to kill him. But Connor is Jurgis's nemesis- the opponent he cannot best. Jurgis gets arrested and tossed into jail.
NOTE: SINCLAIR'S ATTITUDE TOWARD BLACKS
What can be said in Sinclair's defense? Some readers have said he was too zealous and painted all scabs- including "the lowest foreigners"- with a dirty brush. Other readers say that Sinclair wanted to elaborate on his metaphor of the jungle. Blacks, whose ancestors were "savages in Africa," suited his purpose. He exaggerated these "savage" qualities to emphasize his theme.
Still others say we can't hold Sinclair to blame for his stereotypical thinking; he was born in Baltimore of southern parents only thirteen years after the Civil War. It was not a time or a place that encouraged a high degree of sensitivity by whites toward black people and their culture.
The counterargument, of course, is that we expect more than ordinary sensitivity from our intellectuals- especially those who champion society's outcasts. By those standards, Sinclair's blind spot about blacks is inexcusable.
Jurgis's frayed political connections can't save him anymore. "His pull had run up against a bigger pull"- Connor's. Scully is even talking about sending Connor to the state legislature. The best Bush Harper can do for Jurgis is to use Jurgis's savings to bail him out of jail. After that, Jurgis must flee, for any court will sentence him heavily for beating up Connor.
But even his pal Harper finds a way to use Jurgis. Harper says he's helping Jurgis "for friendship's sake." Actually, he intends to find a way to keep Jurgis's $300 bail money himself after Jurgis flees. Jurgis, "overwhelmed with gratitude and relief," boards a streetcar for another part of the city.
Sinclair has put his naif through an endless number of tests. Jurgis is now hardened to reality. His blinders have been knocked off. He realizes there's no escaping the harshness of life in a capitalist democracy- not as a worker, a tramp, or even a criminal. People with power use people without power. And the powerful, too, are used; even Scully is the packers' puppet.
Sinclair is going to make that point again in this chapter, as he begins to tie up the plot's loose ends. Jurgis is going to discover Marija among the used, willingly selling her body to survive.
As the chapter opens, we find Jurgis on the run. He is once more a victim, alone, in the Jungle.
It's impossible to get a job. The packers won the strike, and about half the strikers are back on the job. Jurgis steals food, gets some handouts at a soup kitchen, begs some more. One night, to stay out of the rain, he ducks into a Republican rally, where the G.O.P. candidate for Vice-President is scheduled to speak.
NOTE: THE USE OF IRONY
Read the entire passage closely to see how Sinclair uses irony to ridicule the candidate.
The speech puts Jurgis to sleep and his snoring gets him kicked out of the rally. He starts begging and, by chance, runs into Alena Jasaityte, the "belle of the wedding feast." She gives him Marija's address.
Jurgis goes there, discovers that Marija is a prostitute, and gets caught with her in a police raid. While she dresses to go to the police station, Marija gives Jurgis news about the family. Stanislovas got locked in a room at work and was eaten by rats. Elzbieta has a job, but Marija's earnings are needed to help take care of the children. A work accident cost Tamoszius a finger, and no longer able to play the violin, he left Chicago.
What most shocks Jurgis is Marija; "...she was so quiet- so hard! It struck fear to his heart to watch her." Here is the woman who began the book defending "the best home traditions." Now she sees things "from the business point of view." "When people are starving," she explains, "and they have anything with a price, they ought to sell it."
Recalling what happened to his beloved Ona, Jurgis knows he can't share that point of view. He doesn't tell Marija that he just gave up a foreman's job and $300 "for the satisfaction of knocking down Phil Connor a second time."
In a station-house cell a surge of forgotten emotions causes Jurgis to ponder what has happened to him and his family. "Memories of the old life- his old hopes and his old yearnings, his old dreams of decency and independence!" flash before him, though he has tried to put this all behind.
In the morning a judge frees Jurgis and the other men picked up in the raid. Back at the brothel, Marija tells Jurgis she is addicted to morphine. She also explains how prostitutes are exploited by their bosses: "...they let them run up debts, so they can't get away."
Jurgis leaves with Elzbieta's new address- a tenement in the ghetto district, a slum far from Packingtown- but he doesn't go there. Instead, he goes into the same hall he had been in the night before. A political rally, for the Socialists this time, takes up the rest of the chapter.
Jurgis sleeps through a good part of the rally. Finally, a well-dressed young woman nudges him and urges him to listen. The speech itself is wordy, florid, incendiary, but the speaker is electrifying and has the knack of making Jurgis feel as if he has been singled out. We can assume that the emotionalism of the appeal and the cheers of 2000 already-converted Socialists also affect Jurgis.
But it's the message, not the delivery of it, that wins him over. He believes the message because it describes his experiences exactly. And it explains that experience as a universal condition that workers can reverse. Jurgis is that man "whom pain and suffering have made desperate.... And to him my words will come like a sudden flash of lightning... revealing the way... [and] solving all problems.... The scales will fall from his eyes,... [and] he will leap up with a cry of thankfulness, a free man at last! A man delivered from his self-created slavery!" You put yourself into this trap, he tells Jurgis, but you can get yourself out.
The speech is also a recapitulation of the novel's major themes. Under capitalism, "...all the fair and noble impulses of humanity,... are shackled and bound in the service of organized and predatory Greed!" In Chicago, "women are... driven by hunger to sell their bodies to live." "Homeless and wretched" men, "willing to work and begging for a chance," are "starving." Children are "wearing out their strength and blasting their lives in the effort to earn their bread!" Mothers struggle "to earn enough to feed their little ones!" Old people, "cast off and helpless," await death.
Living off these oppressed people are "the masters of these slaves, who own their toil.... They live in palaces, they riot in luxury and extravagance.... The whole of society is in their grip, the whole labor of the world lies at their mercy."
What electrifies Jurgis and the others is the glimpse of the future the orator presents. He envisions the oppressed as a mighty giant rising against the oppressors. The audience is that giant in miniature. It comes "to its feet with a yell;... And Jurgis is with them,... shouting to tear his throat." He sees that he has made peace with his fate, that he had "ceased to hope and to struggle." But no more. The orator has pointed him toward a new goal. Jurgis's whispered "By God! By God! By God! at the end of the chapter emphasizes his determination to reach that goal.
NOTE: THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR
Jurgis's education about socialism- and, Sinclair hoped, his readers' education- begins with this chapter. After the speech, the orator puts Jurgis in touch with Comrade Ostrinski, a Polish tailor who had been jailed in Europe for his politics. Ostrinski takes Jurgis to his apartment, where with his family he ekes out a living as a pants finisher.
Ostrinski's crash course to educate Jurgis begins with an explanation of the competitive wage system. Workers have only their labor to sell, and jobs go to the lowest bidders. So workers are forced by this system to accept wages that they can barely live on. Two great classes are forming: the capitalist class "with its enormous fortunes" and the proletariat- industrial workers "bound into slavery by unseen chains."
The proletariat is the larger group, but it lacks organization and class consciousness. With effort and patience, that organization will come about and in the socialist scheme the workers will then use the vote to take over the government and end private ownership of industry.
Jurgis applies these concepts to the Beef Trust before he beds down for the night on the floor of Ostrinski's kitchen. Now he can begin to understand how the packers used him. He has trouble getting to sleep. He can't get out of his mind a "joyful vision of the people of Packingtown marching in and taking possession of the Union Stockyards!"
Jurgis's political education continues after he lands a job as porter at a hotel owned by a Socialist named Tommy Hinds. Hinds has a cure for every problem, large or small: "Vote the Socialist ticket!"
His hotel is a "very hot-bed of propaganda." Everyone who works there is a Socialist, and the party line is pushed on all the guests- even on the Western cattlemen who stay there.
Jurgis, now living with Elzbieta and her children, becomes an avid reader of tracts and newspapers. He also attends political meetings regularly, where sometimes he hears "speakers of national prominence."
NOTE: SOCIALISTS OF "NATIONAL PROMINENCE"
The Appeal to Reason is the Socialist weekly that serialized The Jungle before it appeared in book form. Sinclair's detailed description of its contents reads like a promotion letter, Which he probably meant it to be. But the description also shows something Sinclair was at pains to point out- that socialists have a sense of humor.
It is obvious now that Jurgis has thrown off his timidity with his chains. He speaks up at a Democratic rally to say that both major parties buy votes. He'd go on, but two friends make him sit down. This is a far cry from the Jurgis we used to know.
The chapter opens with a visit to Marija, whom Jurgis fails to convince to quit prostitution, and ends with a rousing speech at a Socialist gathering, a rather haphazard and unsatisfying way to end a novel. Sinclair knew it; in 1909 he called the ending "pitifully inadequate." Later, in his Autobiography, he explained: "The last chapters were not up to standard, because both my health and my money were gone, and a second trip to Chicago, which I had hoped to make, was out of the question."
Excuses aside, probably no other ending would have satisfied Sinclair's urge to propagandize for socialism in 1905. At heart, he was a pamphleteer.
Today, we attach the label pamphleteer to writers who promote their ideas with the singlemindedness of the early pamphlet writers. Sinclair is one such writer. In the last chapter, he all but discards his other hats (storyteller, historian, and muckraker) to promote socialism.
The conversation that is at the center of the chapter takes place at the home of a wealthy young social worker. The occasion is a visit from a magazine editor who wants to learn about socialism. The other guests include Jurgis, a "philosophical anarchist" named Nicholas Schliemann, and a Christian socialist named Lucas.
Schliemann and Lucas represent opposite poles of the party. They agree on only two points: 1. Everything needed to produce food, clothing, and shelter- "the necessities of life"- should be publicly owned and managed in a democratic manner. 2. That goal will be achieved only if wage earners are taught to view themselves as a distinct class and to act together politically.
Like the American writer Henry David Thoreau, Schliemann is a rarity: a person who lives his life as an experiment. He lives alone ("No sane man would allow himself to fall in love until after the revolution," he says) on $125 a year, which he earns as a migrant farm laborer each summer.
Once an itinerant evangelist, Lucas grafted socialism to his religious beliefs and now travels "all over the country, living like the apostles of old, upon hospitality, and preaching upon street corners." To him, socialism is an updated version of the teachings of Jesus- "the world's first revolutionist, the true founder of the Socialist movement; a man whose whole being was one flame of hatred for wealth." Schliemann disagrees. To him, socialism is "a necessary step toward a far- distant goal"- an anarchistic society which encourages "the free development of every personality, unrestricted by laws." Schliemann sees religion as a weapon of oppression that "poisoned the stream of progress at its source." He envisions a socialist paradise. The competitive wage system would be gone, and so would war and its costs. Profits would be gone; goods would be sold at a price equal to the cost of the labor required to make them. Also gone would be the costly wastes of competition: industrial warfare, vice, an expensive legal system, political corruption, the purchase and production of frivolous items, the idle rich. (Everyone would be required to work.) In their place would rise "positive economies of co-operation": shared housekeeping and cooperative cooking, scientific farming, labor-saving machinery. In such a world, Schliemann promises, "anyone would be able to support himself by an hour's work a day."
The novel ends the next day as the Socialists tally up election returns in a meeting hall. The numbers Sinclair gives are accurate; they reflect the unexpectedly strong showing for the Socialist candidate for president, Eugene V. Debs, in 1904. In the three wards of Packingtown, 6300 men (women couldn't vote in presidential elections then) backed the Socialist ticket. No wonder Boss Scully had been worried during the aldermanic elections!
Jurgis is in the hall listening to party officials announce the returns. A speaker who seems to Jurgis "the very spirit of the revolution" exhorts the crowd to organize and build on the party's gains. With "outraged workingmen" on their side, says the orator, "Chicago will be ours!" (The speech is based on one Sinclair made on election night in 1904.)
It's a curious ending. It holds out hope for future change- but no certainties. And it allows Jurgis to slip out of sight, to become just an anonymous part of the cheering crowd in the hall.
Perhaps that's intentional. It's an axiom of socialism that individuals get their strength as part of the mass. Nonetheless, we want to know more about Jurgis at this point, because we're left with an unfinished portrait of him. He's unhappy living with Elzbieta. She is ill and her boys have picked up some rough habits on the streets. Yet he can always turn from his problems to the Socialist movement- "this great stream"- and to learning. "He was just a hotel porter," Sinclair tells us, "and expected to remain one while he lived; but meantime, in the realm of thought, his life was a perpetual adventure."
By becoming ordinary, our hero becomes something less than a hero. But he has survived. For a wage-slave in Packingtown, that's nothing short of miraculous.
[The Jungle Contents] [PinkMonkey.com]
© Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.