Study Guide

The Jungle

by Upton Sinclair

The Jungle Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Jurgis Rudkus

Jurgis Rudkus (YOHR-gihs RUHD-kihs), a Lithuanian immigrant overflowing with the American dream of self-made success. Jurgis arrives in the United States determined to succeed; nothing in his life works out, however. When things go against him, he vows only to work harder, and he is not given to complaining. He delays his marriage for sixteen months in order to buy a house and provide for his wife’s family. When he injures his ankle in the killing beds of a meatpacking plant, he has to miss work because of his injury and is fired. He takes a lesser job in a fertilizer plant, where his pay is poor and conditions are even worse than in the meatpacking plant. His wife secretly becomes a prostitute in order to help support the family. When Jurgis learns of this, he beats Phil Connor, who encouraged her to become a prostitute. The beating results in Jurgis’ imprisonment for a month. When he is released, he finds to his horror that his house has been repossessed, as has all his furniture, even though both were almost paid for. He finds his family just in time to see his wife die after a miscarriage. His small child soon drowns in rainwater on the unpaved streets of Packingtown. Utterly disenchanted, Jurgis rides the rails into the countryside, where he finds itinerant work in the fields. He sinks into a life of drinking and whoring but is soon revolted by his own depravity. He returns to Chicago and finds a job building tunnels beneath the city. Finally, when Jurgis discovers socialism, he becomes politically active, but never to the point that he really succeeds because success, in the author’s eyes, is impossible for wage slaves such as Jurgis who are beholden to their capitalist employers.

Ona Lukoszaite

Ona Lukoszaite (OW-nah lew-kah-SAHT-ee), the Lithuanian woman whom Jurgis marries and whose eleven-member family he tries to help. Ona, a quiet, ethical woman, bears the couple’s first child. Because she must return to work almost immediately after childbirth, she suffers problems with her reproductive organs that plague her through the rest of her life. When Jurgis falls on hard times, Ona reluctantly becomes a prostitute in order to keep her family afloat financially. After Jurgis is imprisoned for beating her pimp, Ona is evicted from the house on which they have been making payments and finds herself in a desperate situation. By the time she and Jurgis are reunited, Ona is in the midst of a miscarriage that results in her death.

Antanas Rudkus the First

Antanas Rudkus the First (an-TAN-as), Jurgis’ father, who dies shortly after Jurgis’ marriage to Ona. Jurgis can provide him with only the cheapest available funeral, which nags at his soul.

Antanas Rudkus the Second

Antanas Rudkus the Second, Jurgis and Ona’s son, who dies in childhood by drowning in a pool of water on an ill-drained, unpaved street in Packingtown.

Marija Berczynskas

Marija Berczynskas (MAH-ree-ah behr-ZEHNS-kahs), Ona’s cousin, who works in a bordello. She tries to get Jurgis to see that Ona’s taking up prostitution was the best (perhaps the only) way to save the family, an argument that Jurgis cannot accept.

Freddie Jones

Freddie Jones, the son of a rich, capitalist meatpacker whose life convinces Jurgis that wealth results in banality, venality, family disintegration, and general unproductiveness.

Phil Connor

Phil Connor, the man who lures Ona into prostitution, for which Jurgis beats him. While Jurgis is organizing a strike against the meatpackers, he runs into Connor and beats him a second time, resulting in a second imprisonment.

Lucas

Lucas, an itinerant evangelist who is convinced that the socialist revolution will have strong roots in Christianity and in the leadership of a scientific revolutionary from Sweden named Schliemann.

The Jungle Themes and Characters

Before the publication of The Jungle, Sinclair commented in the Appeal,a Socialist journal, that his novel would "set forth the...

(The entire section is 485 words.)

The Jungle Characters

The Jungle chronicles the American dream as experienced by the Lithuanian immigrant family of Jurgis Rudkus. At first admiring of the...

(The entire section is 228 words.)

The Jungle Character Analysis

Marija Berczynskas

Ona's cousin, an orphan, Marija decided to join the family in coming to America just before they left on their journey. She is a big, strong,...

(The entire section is 320 words.)

Antanas Rudkus

Jurgis' old father ("Dede" means "Grandfather" in Lithuanian) had one other son in Lithuania, but he went into the army ten years before the...

(The entire section is 227 words.)

Jurgis Rudkus

Jurgis is the protagonist, or main character, of this story: after the extended wedding scene which introduces all of the characters, the...

(The entire section is 555 words.)

Ona Rudkus

Ona is very small and young when she comes to America. Although the book opens with her wedding to Jurgis, the next chapter tells the reader...

(The entire section is 310 words.)

Other Characters

Phil Connor
Connor is the boss of the ham packaging department that Ona works in. When Ona is pregnant with her second child,...

(The entire section is 1129 words.)