Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
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....
(The entire section is 630 words.)
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