Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
While he is still a peasant boy in Lithuania, Jurgis Rudkus falls in love with a gentle girl named Ona. When Ona’s father dies, Jurgis, planning to marry her as soon as he has enough money, comes to America with her family. Besides the young lovers, the emigrant party is composed of Dede Antanas, Jurgis’s father; Elzbieta, Ona’s stepmother; Jonas, Elzbieta’s brother; Marija, Ona’s orphan cousin; and Elzbieta’s six children. By the time the family arrives in Chicago, they have very little money. Jonas, Marija, and Jurgis at once get work in the stockyards. Dede Antanas tries to find work, but he is too old.
They decide that it will be cheaper to buy a house on installments than to rent. A crooked agent sells them a ramshackle house with a fresh coat of paint that he describes to his ignorant customers as new. Jurgis finds his job exhausting, but he thinks himself lucky to be making forty-five dollars a month. At last, Dede Antanas also finds work at the plant, but he has to give part of his wages to the foreman in order to secure his job.
Jurgis and Ona save enough money for their wedding feast and are married. Then the family finds that they need more money. Elzbieta lies about the age of her oldest son, Stanislovas, and he, too, gets a job at the plant. Ona is already working. Dede Antanas works in a moist, cold room, where he develops consumption. When he dies, the family has scarcely enough money to bury him. Winter comes, and...
(The entire section is 1046 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
The abuses in the meatpacking industry were known before the publication of The Jungle. In the 1898 intervention in Cuba, some three thousand American soldiers died from eating canned beef, and (soon to be President) Theodore Roosevelt himself testified against the Beef Trust. The Hearst newspapers brought about a Senate investigation, and there were several muckraking exposés, but little changed until Sinclair’s fateful trip to Chicago to observe immigrant workers at work. Although he had little interest in them as immigrants, Sinclair’s descriptions of their customs, mentality, and behavior are some of the best in American letters. Similarly, he had little interest as such in attacking the beef industry. He dedicated the novel “To the Workingmen of America,” underscoring his goal of improving their overall conditions rather than exposing the filth prevailing in the country’s slaughterhouses. After the sensational success of The Jungle—in London, Winston Churchill penned a glowing review article—Sinclair avowed that he aimed at the public’s heart and accidentally hit it in the stomach.
Between the opening chapter of an ethnic wedding and the closing scenes of a political rally, the novel traces more than two years in the life of a newly arrived Lithuanian immigrant family. Lured by the advertising blitz that promised them the American Dream, they instead suffer almost unbearable exploitations and deprivations at the...
(The entire section is 569 words.)
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Sinclair became a devotee of socialism in 1903 and considered The Jungle a forum for examining capitalism's exploitation of working men and women. The narrative follows its protagonist, the Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkus, as he wrestles with a harsh environment where only the ruthless survive. The novel opens at Jurgis's vesilija, or Lithuanian wedding feast—a ceremony expressing individual hope and the reaffirmation of traditional values. Jurgis struggles against external conditions native to the Chicago stockyard but representative of an entire society dedicated to the values of capitalism. Sinclair introduces a political alternative and effective antidote to capitalistic excesses by describing Jurgis's eventual conversion to socialism. Although Sinclair was not completely satisfied with the mixture of rhetorical techniques he employed in The Jungle, his vivid descriptions of outrageous industrial practices quickly attracted public attention to the novel and stimulated social reform.
(The entire section is 140 words.)
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Life in Packingtown
The novel's first seventeen chapters, roughly half of its length, examine the struggles and compromises faced by one extended family from the eastern European country of Lithuania. They attempt to settle into a comfortable life in America, only to find themselves destroyed by the economic system. The book starts with hope, with the marriage of Jurgis Rudkus to Ona Lukoszaite. At the wedding, the key people in their lives are introduced—his father, her cousin, her stepmother who has six children, and so on. The wedding scene also introduces a sense of how strict their budget is and how greatly they fear unemployment. The narrative then slips backward by a year to explain their situation by presenting their courtship in the Imperial Forest in Lithuania, the financial disaster that occurred when her father died, and the decision to move to America. It soon becomes clear that this is Jurgis Rudkus' story, since most of the details related are about him. On first immigrating, Jurgis is ecstatic and confident, and by the time of his marriage he still feels able to fend for his family, although responsibilities make his life difficult. A major financial burden is the house that the family buys: although they take much caution before signing for it, the real estate agent takes advantage of their poor grasp of English and the monthly payments turn out to be considerably more than the sum that they had to struggle to meet. To meet expenses, Ona goes to work sewing casings on...
(The entire section is 485 words.)
Jurgis has trouble finding his family upon his release from jail, because they have been evicted and the house has been sold to new owners. After asking around, he finds them living in an unheated attic, where, the very night he arrives, Ona is giving birth. Without money they cannot get adequate medical help, and Ona and the baby die. Because the man he assaulted was influential, Jurgis' name is blacklisted by meatpackers throughout the country. With considerable trouble he finds a job at a harvester plant, but it shuts down nine days after his hiring. A social worker gets him a job at a steel mill near the Indiana border. When he finds out that his young son has drowned while playing in a flooded street, Jurgis feels no more bond to city life, and he leaves town on a freight train, travelling the countryside in the fresh air and sleeping in fields and barns. This life reminds him of his home country, and he is happy with it, but when winter comes he returns to Chicago. Working briefly at digging tunnels under the city for the subway system, his arm is broken in an accident, leaving him in danger of freezing in the streets. He runs into a rich drunk man who takes him home to supper: this man gives Jurgis a hundred-dollar bill to pay the cab driver and then, forgetting, has his butler pay the cab. After dinner, when the rich man falls asleep at the table, the butler throws Jurgis out, and when he tries to cash the hundred-dollar bill at a saloon, the bartender will...
(The entire section is 295 words.)
Life of Crime
In jail Jurgis renews his acquaintance with Jack Duane, whom he met during his last jail term; this time, however, he agrees to become Duane's partner in crime. When they are released they perform a simple, vicious street mugging, cracking a man's skull and taking his wallet and leaving him to freeze. Jurgis' life of crime progresses quickly, from street crimes to gambling to political graft. The political boss of the Packingtown district enlists Jurgis to assure that a weak politician of the opposing political party will defeat the Socialist candidate that their own party has nominated, and so he arranges a job for Jurgis at the same packinghouse that he used to work at, because party regulars cannot campaign for the opposition. With the election won, Jurgis stays on, and when the workers go out on strike the political bosses offer him the chance to become a foreman by staying and working with the scab laborers that they bring in. Jurgis is richer than ever, thanks to his life of crime. It all falls apart when he runs into the man who raped his wife and forced her into prostitution: he assaults the man again, losing his job and political connections, and it costs him the three hundred dollars he has saved to stay out of jail.
(The entire section is 218 words.)
Alone and on the street again, Jurgis runs into an old friend who tells him where to find Cousin Marija, giving him an address that turns out to be a house of prostitution. Marija explains that she is taking care of what is left of the family with her wages as a prostitute, and that she would not quit her job, even if Jurgis could support them all financially, because she is addicted to opium. One day, Jurgis goes into a meeting hall to warm up, not caring about the meeting being held, but a beautiful woman behind him notices him dozing and suggests that he might be interested if he paid attention. He listens, and he becomes enthralled with socialist philosophy. After the speech he goes to talk with the meeting chairman and is assigned to a party member who tutors him, giving him readings and explaining them to him. When he finally lands a job as a porter at a hotel, his surprised mentor explains that the hotel owner is one of the state's leading socialists. Jurgis is then able to sit in on conversations when famous socialists pass through town. The book ends with Jurgis and his socialist friends gathering in a hall on election night, exuberant about the huge increase in votes that Socialist candidates are gathering all across America in the 1904 elections.
(The entire section is 227 words.)
Chapter 1 Summary
In turn-of-the-century Chicago, a wedding is taking place among the Lithuanian emigrants. Fifteen-year-old Ona Lukoszaite is marrying Jurgis Rudkus, a laborer in the meatpacking industry. Ona’s cousin, Marija Berczynskas, is in charge of the wedding preparations. After the marriage ceremony at the church, the wedding party travels to a neighborhood bar, where the celebration lasts into the small hours of the morning. Marija, the last to leave the church but the first to arrive at the bar, finds a large crowd of people at the door. It is the tradition that all passersby are welcome to join the festivities.
Ona, a small, pale, shy girl, is the complete opposite of large, dark, outgoing Jurgis. She sits quietly in the corner, overwhelmed by the jollity and noise. Tables are spread with an abundance of food, and a nearby bar has been set up, where many are indulging in free liquor. The band, led by violinist Tomaszius Kuszleika, is far from adequate, but at least it is loud. Tomaszius edges toward the food, moving through the crowd despite his diminutive size. He dominates the scene; his violin is screeching loudly and drawing attention to himself. Ona is too excited to eat despite the urgings of her cousins. Her step-mother, Teta Elzbieta, is running around, making sure everyone is enjoying himself. When Tomaszius plays specifically to her, Ona would like to run away but is rescued by Marija. Jurgis’s father, Ded Antanas, rises to his feet and tries to make a speech but is hindered by his chronic coughing. He wrote his speech himself rather than taking one out of a book, as is traditional.
Afterward, the guests form a circle around the bride. Each man is encouraged to dance with Ona and afterward drop some money into a hat held by Teta Elzbieta. This money is to defray the cost of the wedding feast, which may run as high as two or three hundred dollars. However, many guests give nothing, although they continue to eat. This is contrary to the traditions of the Old Country, but many of the immigrants are poor laborers; they work many hours for very little money and absolutely no job security.
At the end of the feast, it is discovered that the guests have given nowhere near enough money to pay the expenses. Ona is horrified that they are starting their married life with such a large debt. Jurgis assures her that he will work harder. This is a promise he has made since leaving his home in Lithuania, cheated all...
(The entire section is 465 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Jurgis is a giant of a man. He was born in the country and is a reliable worker, strong and full of energy. He never saw a city in Lithuania because he lived in the Imperial Forest with his father, Antanas. His brother had joined the army and has not been heard from for ten years. His sister married and remained on the farm when her father and brother came to America.
Jurgis met Ona a year and a half previously, at a horse fair. Her father was rich and proud and did not approve of Jurgis as a suitor for his daughter. However, Jurgis journeys for two weeks to try again to convince him to allow him to marry Ona, and he finds that the rich man is dead and his estate tied up with creditors. Ona’s step-mother, Teta Lukoszaite, works the farm with her brother, Jonas. Ona loves her family and will not marry Jurgis and leave them. Jonas suggests that they all travel to America, where an acquaintance of his went and became rich. After much hard work, they raise the money. Ona’s cousin Marija also decides to join them. She worked many years for a farmer who beat her. When she grew old enough, she beat him in return, almost killing him.
Jurgis and the others are cheated both in Lithuania and in New York, where they are easy prey because they do not know the language. Their plan is to go to Chicago, where the stockyards promise jobs for all. When they arrive, they feel overwhelmed by the size of the buildings and by the strange sounds and smells. As they walk more closely to the stockyards, they see the green grass get a little less green. They see brick buildings and tall chimneys. They have nowhere to stay, so they sleep in a doorway until a policeman takes them to the station. He points them on their way to Packingtown. There they encounter Jokubus Szedvilas, the acquaintance of whom Jonas had spoken. He owns a delicatessen and helps them find lodgings.
The boarding house is overcrowded; sometimes there are more than a dozen people to a room. The proprietor, Mrs. Jukniene, does not bother cleaning the place; she lets chickens run throughout the rooms in the pretense of letting them “clean” the floor for her. The streets are crowded with children who are too poor to go to school. Despite the filth and the crowded conditions, Jurgis and Ona see it as a place of promise. Looking toward the stockyards, Jurgis tells Ona that the next day he will go there and get a job.
(The entire section is 443 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
Jokubas knows a policeman employed by the Durham meatpacking house who might be able to arrange for jobs for some of the new immigrants. Jurgis is sure he can get a job on his own, which he does after standing in line at the packing house door for only half an hour. Jokubas talks to the policeman and is encouraged by his assurance that jobs will be found.
Jokubas takes his friends on a tour of the meatpacking house. He brags that every part of the pig except the squeal is used. He leads them through the enormous cattle pens, where cows of all ages, sizes, and colors can be found. Pigs are also there. Among the livestock are men on horseback, who ride through the herds and drive them up to the loading ramps. The group of visitors follows the pigs inside, where they are lined up to the slaughter. One man attaches a chain around one foot of the pig, which is lifted squealing up into the air. The pig’s throat is cut, and it is moved on down the line. After the blood has drained, the head is cut off and pushed down a hole in the floor. The carcass is dipped in boiling water. A line of men cuts off the bristles and then cuts the body down the middle. Another worker cuts through the sternum. Next its insides are removed and shoved down another hole in the floor. The legs are cut off, and then the body is put into a chilling room for twenty-four hours. The meat cutters remove the frozen carcass and slice the meat into sections, which will be sent all over the world. The men laugh nervously but the women are clearly horrified—even moved to tears—by the butchery of the pigs.
The cattle receive the same treatment, though the workers save the hides to be tanned. There is also a Jewish priest, who is present to validate that kosher methods are used to prepare the meet. In other places, cans are prepared for the lard, boxes are made for the soap, bristles are used for seat cushions, hooves are used for glue, horns are made into buttons, and so on. Each part of the animal is used for something, with what remains is made into fertilizer. Jokubas is cynical about the whole process. Jurgis is enthralled; he is amazed at the efficiency and feels proud that he is now part of all this.
(The entire section is 415 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
At seven o’clock the next morning, Jurgis shows up at the door of the packing house, ready to work. He waits two hours; the foreman said to show up at the door but did not say anything about entering it. Jurgis is put on the line, sweeping the intestines of the butchered cows into a trap. The atmosphere is hot, the smell is overwhelming, and the blood is deep enough to wade through. It is a heavy work day, so Jurgis works until seven o’clock that night. He is overjoyed that he has made more than a dollar and a half. For several days, this is the regular schedule.
Marija marches through various factories, looking for a job. She is consistently turned away until she impresses a forelady with her size. She is given the job of painting the cans in which tuna is packed, for which she receives two dollars a day because this is considered skilled labor. Jonas also gets a job at the Durham packing house. Jurgis will not allow the other women to work and insists that the children will go to school, which is free in America.
On the way home one evening, Jurgis sees a sign advertising homes for sale. The illustration shows a two-story house with four rooms and a basement. The house costs fifteen hundred dollars, with three hundred down and twelve dollars’ payment a month. The family discusses this possibility. It costs more than rent but at the end they will at least have something. It is decided that, with the salaries of the people now working, they will be able to afford the house payments.
The next day, they visit the agent, who agrees to show them the house that Sunday. When they visit it, they see that it is not finished. They also notice that few of the houses in the division are inhabited. They are concerned that they might be swindled, so they go home to discuss it. The men are unable to go to sign the deed, so Jurgis drills the women on what they should ask and cautions them to refrain from signing anything if they feel that the deal is not right.
When the women and Jokubas go to the agent, Jokubas carefully reads the contract and is dismayed to find that they will be only renting the house until it is paid for. He decides to contact a lawyer but finds that the lawyer knows the agent. This causes them to hesitate, but the lawyer insists that all is according to the regular procedure. They sign the deed, but that evening, when Jurgis reads it, he is irate that they have been tricked. He storms...
(The entire section is 514 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Now that they have bought their house, the family worries about how to furnish it. Their funds are very low; they stay awake at night worrying about it. They see an advertisement for a company that will furnish a four-room home for seventy-five dollars, with reasonable payments. They feel worried about going into further debt, but the family decides they must have furniture. They are excited when it arrives even though it is not quite enough for a family of twelve. Jurgis brings home some packing cases to make some dressers. Even so, some of them have to sleep on the floor. Ona and Jurgis feel that soon they will be able to get married.
Jurgis is enjoying his job. Shoveling intestines into the trap is hard, back-breaking, disgusting work, but he feels happy to be making money at a useful occupation. He is shocked when he learns that his fellow workers are not so happy. They feel that they are pushed too hard for too long by foremen who are hired to “speed up the gang.” Jurgis cannot understand this; in the Old Country, men were glad to have a job and did what they were told to do without complaining. Here, people want to get the same amount of money for doing less. This begins to make cracks in his joy at being part of the American system.
Jurgis is further disturbed by Antanas’s difficulty in securing a job. He is finally approached by a man who will get him a job in return for one third of his wages. Because Antanas wants to work despite his age, he agrees. Jurgis is upset that Antanas is cheated out of his hard-earned wages, but a friend, Tamoszius, tells him that this often happens. It is called graft. The foremen are under pressure to keep the production lines moving, but are not above making a little money on the side if they can.
Marija learns that she got her job at the expense of someone else. The previous laborer, Mary Dennis, was a single mother, whose son is crippled and epileptic. When Mary caught consumption, the forelady hired Marija to take her place because sick workers slow down production. Jonas was also hired to replace a worker who was injured by a runaway cart. One evening, Jurgis is kept after to help take up the slack left by an injured worker. He sees that cows that have recently given birth (which means that their meat does not meet quality standards) are kept for a few days and then put in with the other carcasses. He begins to think that those who laughed at him for his faith in...
(The entire section is 453 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Jurgis and Ona have been a couple for almost two years, but they still do not have enough money to get married. They consider doing without a wedding feast, but this upsets Teta Elzbieta so much that she cannot sleep at night. She clings to Dede Antanas, and the two oldest adults worry that this new country will undermine the virtues brought from Lithuania. Teta Elzbieta buys a small shrine and hopes it will bring lasting stability to their home. Ona suggests that she may get a job. As she and Jurgis consider this, they encounter another tremendous roadblock.
A neighbor, Grandmother Majauszkiene, has lived in Packingtown for many years. She tells them the history of the neighborhood, and there do not seem to be many bright spots. She tells Jurgis and his family that their supposedly new home is in fact fifteen years old. It is built of shoddy materials and was given a new coat of paint to make it look more attractive to gullible buyers. Four families have lived there before them, and each one was struck by tragedy. Consumption (tuberculosis) seems to have cursed the house, causing at least one member of each family to die.
Grandmother Majauszkiene tells the long line of immigrants who have come to Packingtown. First came the Germans, who were brought here because of their skill in butchering. After them came the Irish, followed by the Bohemians. The Poles lived there next, and then came the Lithuanians like Jurgis and his family. The Slovaks are now moving in as the newest ethnic group to have the majority presence. Grandmother Majauszkiene goes on and on with her horror stories. She then informs the family members that the agent has tricked them. Not only do they owe twelve dollars a month, but they also must pay interest on their debt. This is an additional seven dollars, which makes their total monthly payment nineteen dollars. Horrified, Teta Elzbieta and Ona go to see the agent the next day and learn that this is true. The agent explains that he did not tell them because he assumed they understood that there would be an interest payment.
On learning this, Jurgis vows to work harder, as always. They decide that Stanislovas must also work, though he is only fourteen and the child labor laws say he must be at least sixteen. They go to the priest to have a birth certificate falsified to show Stanislovas’s age as two years older. He immediately gets a job loading lard cans onto the filling machine. It seems...
(The entire section is 441 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
Jurgis and Ona are finally married, but the wedding feast leaves them one hundred dollars in debt. The morning after the wedding, the family goes to work, half asleep from the late hours and heavy eating. Ona cannot be late or she will lose her position. Stanislovas almost loses his job when he twice falls asleep at the lard-filling machine. It takes a week for all of them to recover. Jurgis regrets putting his new wife in such a precarious position, in which she must work so hard merely to survive. He vows to work harder so that her life will be easier.
Dede Antanas must work in an unheated basement, walking through a floor saturated with corrosive saltpeter. In time, his feet are lacerated with sores and he cannot walk. He is carried home and put to bed, from which he never rises. His cough worsens, and soon he is spitting up blood and is nothing but skin and bones. A doctor is called, but he pronounces that there is nothing to be done. One morning, the family finds Antanas dead. Jurgis has no time to mourn for his father because he is struggling against undertakers who try to cheat him in his grief.
Winter arrives, and the workers in the packing houses begin to sicken and die. Thousands of men wait outside the doors upon hearing of a new opening. The cold becomes unbearable. There is no heat in the packing houses, so many times ears and feet become frozen. Men find some relief by sticking their feet into the warm carcasses of the cows when the foreman is not looking. The cold causes many accidents because frozen hands cannot adequately handle the butchering knives. During lunch, the men surge into the bars, which are headquarters for union organizers. The only requirement to enter is to drink something, which encourages the incipient alcoholism of many of the men. Jurgis avoids all of this because of his concern for Ona.
At home, the small stove cannot adequately warm the house, not even the kitchen. Teta Elzbieta suffers all day in the cold, as do the children when they cannot go to school. At night, the family huddles around the stove, eating from their hands, and then goes to bed. Even there they cannot find adequate warmth. The children, all piled into one bed, fight to get the much-coveted middle spot where the warmth from the bodies of the other gives the most comfort. There is no mercy from the ever-increasing cold.
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Marija becomes the target of the affections of Tamoszius Kuszleika, the petite violinist at Jurgis and Ona’s wedding feast. They are complete opposites in size—Marija is a rather hefty young lady as well as being loud, aggressive, and boisterous. However, Tamoszius has a way of looking at Marija that starts her blushing. Tamoszius plays frequently at weddings and celebrations. He asks Marija to accompany him and is overwhelmed when she says yes. Thereafter, Marija always goes with him when he plays, and she returns home with her pockets full of sandwiches and cakes for the children. If friends of Tamoszius are hosting the celebration, he invites the entire family. He is exceptionally jealous, however, and gets upset if Marija dances with another single man. These events provide some relaxation and cheer for the family, who spend the rest of their time in cold, hard labor. Tamoszius gets up enough courage to ask Marija to marry him, and she accepts willingly; they plan for a spring wedding.
Marija’s happiness is brought to an abrupt halt, however, when the canning factory in which she works shuts down. With little warning, the workers are told that the factory will be closed for at least a month. Marija never thought of the factory closing, and she learns that only a few of the workers will resume work when it reopens. The men in the warehouse are also laid off, which means that there are no orders coming in. Never one to accept idleness, Marija searches for days to find another job, but nearly all the factories are closing—so all the other workers are looking for positions as well. Marija, who had joined a union ten days before the canning factory closed, attends union meetings and shouts out her disapproval of the unfairness of it all. She does not know English, and no one understands her.
Jurgis also suffers from the seasonal decrease. Although the workers are still expected to show up at seven o’clock in the morning, there may be no work for them until late in the afternoon. Jurgis is lucky to get a couple of hours of work each day. Even then he is often shorted wages because partial hours are not paid. Jurgis also changes his mind about unions. He attends the meetings, even when he is cornered by a drunken Irishman. He is interested in the rights of workers and remembers when he laughed at those who questioned the fairness of the factory owners. He sees now that there is strength only in union.
(The entire section is 429 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Due to his interest in the union meetings, Jurgis resolves to learn English so he can understand and participate more. He begins by studying with the children as they do their schoolwork, and then he learns that there are free night classes. Every evening, Jurgis goes to the class, even if he can make only the last half hour. The union also presents him with the idea of democracy. The union is like a small country, where each man has a vote. He has discovered that, as in Russia, there are rich men who own everything, but in the union he has a voice to determine leadership and action.
One day at work, a man approaches Jurgis and asks if he would like to be a citizen. Jurgis is excited at the prospect because this would make him truly part of the democratic process. Although his foreman would not give him half a day off to get married, Jurgis is granted time off with pay to go to the courthouse to apply for citizenship. Jurgis and other immigrants are taken downtown, where they sign their names and become naturalized citizens. Later, Jurgis learns how to register to vote. On election day, a union representative takes him to voting place, tells him how to fill out the ballot, and then pays him two dollars. It is only later that he learns from Jonas that his vote has been bought. Jonas voted three times to earn four dollars. Jurgis thus discovers that the whole process is dishonest graft in both political parties. In local elections, the Democratic Party always wins and is run by Mike Scully, the Irish political boss. Scully earns money with his political machine, and he gets business contracts that earn him even more. However, Scully works for the common people, so the laborers follow his lead.
Jurgis learns how diseased meat is rerouted back into the packing house. This meat is sold to the general public, causing illness and even death. Unidentified meat is sold as potted chicken. Goats are slaughtered and sold as mutton. Because of the presence of all this diseased meat, a simple cut becomes dangerous for the workers. Often cuts become infected and result in the loss of fingers and hands. The cold injures the joints, causing swollen knuckles. In the fertilizer rooms, men fall into the boiling vats. There is not enough left of the bodies to hand over to their grieving families.
(The entire section is 410 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
As winter gives way to spring, the family’s worries grow. Jurgis still does not work a full day, and the canning factory has not reopened. Marija must put off plans to marry. The water pipes freeze, causing a flood in the house. The price of the repair is staggering. When Ona and Teta Elzbieta go to the agent to make their house payment, they learn that they are also required to buy insurance and they must pay taxes and water bills. If the city decides to put in a sewer or a sidewalk, this will be even more money. Soon Ona discovers that she is pregnant.
When the warm weather arrives, so do the flies. The heat inside the factories is unbearable. Marija is overjoyed when the canning factory reopens, but she is fired within a month or so. She feels sure that it is because of her involvement with the union. She had complained several times about the forelady’s errors in counting, but the foreman did nothing about it. Marija tries for months to find another job. Finally she secures a position as a beef trimmer simply because she is a woman and can be paid half of what a man would be paid. She is as strong as a man and does the job well, but she views it as a drop in status. Marija quits the union, seeing it as the source of her problems.
Ona also has problems at her work. The forelady is the former mistress of the superintendent. Besides working at the packing house, she runs a house of prostitution. She gives her prostitutes jobs in the packing house because she can control them more than she can others. She, as well as the prostitutes, scorn Ona because she is a decent married woman.
Ona gives birth to a large baby boy. Jurgis had insisted on a male doctor rather than the questionable midwives that inhabit Packingtown. Jurgis is enthralled by his son, though he has had little use for babies in the past. He names him Antanas after his father. Ona must return to work only a week after giving birth, leaving little Antanas to be cared for by Teta Elzbieta. Rather than being able to nurse (both for the baby’s health and her own), Ona must leave him in the care of her stepmother, who feeds him the “poisoned” pale blue milk bought at the market. Ona soon develops “womb trouble,” which weakens her considerably. She tries patent medicine, which is mostly alcohol, but finds no relief.
(The entire section is 428 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
During the summer, the packing houses are once again at full speed. However, Jurgis does not make as much money as he did the year before because more men are added into the system. This is to ensure that there are trained workers in the event that the regular crew goes on strike. The reduced hours also ensure that the workers are too poor to save up money to go on strike. At the canning factory where Marija used to work, a strike occurs but lasts only a few days. The women’s wages are cut nearly in half. This worries Jurgis and Ona, who fear that a strike will come in their workplaces. There is a monopoly on the beef market by the packing house owners, which limits competition and prevents the workers from finding a place with higher wages. The only one who is not afraid of strikes or cuts is Marija, who has risen in her job as beef trimmer. She opens a bank account, as does Tamoszius, and they begin to plan once again on a wedding.
One day, Marija goes by her bank to see a crowd of people outside. She questions those in line and learns that there is a run on the bank. People fear that they will not be able to get access to their money if the bank is in trouble, so they are lining up to withdraw their funds. Marija waits overnight in the rain until the bank opens. She takes out all her money, receiving it in silver bullion. Afterward, she begins to think there was no reason to fear, but the bank has closed the accounts of all those who participated in the run. Marija sews up her money inside of her clothes. When Jurgis jokes at her, saying she may sink into the mud by the weight of her money, she begins to fear crossing the streets. A new election comes; Jurgis understands this time that it is not right to sell one’s vote.
Winter returns and brings fierce blizzards that shut down the streetcars. Jurgis and Ona must leave two hours before dawn to get to work on time. Jurgis steps into one of the traps in which cow innards are swept and twists his ankle. The company doctor checks him out and tells him to go home; he says it is likely that he will be off work for several months. Jurgis eventually makes it home. The financial pressure that this creates causes Jurgis to become more temperamental. Only baby Antanas can calm him.
(The entire section is 430 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
Jurgis remains in bed for three weeks; his ankle remains swollen and painful. Eventually they call a doctor. He tells Jurgis that he has injured a tendon and must be off his feet for two months or risk being lame for life. After a couple of days, Jurgis tries to go back to work, but he almost faints from the pain and has to be carried home.
A few days later, another blizzard hits. Ona and Stanislovas head off to work but return around noon. Stanislovas has frozen his fingers. He screams with pain as his fingers are thawed out. This annoys Jurgis, who threatens to beat him. In the morning, Stanislovas refuses to go to work so Jurgis does beat him, and he must beat him each morning after that. Ona fears she has lost her job because she was absent, but she learns that the forelady was also gone and so must be lenient. Stanislovas’s fingers are permanently crippled, which makes him even more unwilling to go to work.
Jurgis begins to weaken, losing most of his muscle. In March, he learns that there is only three dollars left in Ona’s bank account. About this time, Jonas disappears. It is possible that he fell into one of the vats and was rendered into lard. When this would happen, the company would usually tell the family that he got his week’s wages and took off. However, Jurgis and his family decide that the latter is most likely true because Jonas was becoming increasingly bitter about paying rent for a cold room with not enough food. He feels that he has to turn over all his money because this is what Marija has done. Now that spring has come, Jonas probably took the opportunity to leave Chicago. This leaves one less mouth to feed, but it also means that the family has lost one third of its income. They have to borrow money from Marija and also from Tamoszius, which means that the couple must once again postpone their wedding. Eventually, two of the boys are sent out to learn to sell papers. At first, they are taken advantage of and beaten, but eventually they learn the ways of the street.
In April, Jurgis goes to the doctor to have his ankle checked. He is given permission to go back to work, but when he does, he learns that he has lost his position. He takes his place among the unemployed; however, he is no longer the able-bodied man he once was and is unable to find a job.
(The entire section is 432 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
Elzbieta’s youngest child, Kristoforas, dies shortly after eating a sausage. He was born with a congenital birth defect and has always been unwell and crippled. Subject to infection, he caught cold frequently, and his coughing and snuffling annoyed everyone. Only Elzbieta feels grief at his death; the others feel only a cold relief. There is no money for a funeral, and Jurgis says that the boy will have to be buried by the city in a pauper’s grave. This infuriates Elzbieta, who berates Ona for standing by and listening to this without objecting. Eventually, Marija says she will contribute ten dollars. Jurgis will give nothing, so Elzbieta goes to the neighbors and soon raises enough money to provide a hearse, a grave, and a wooden cross. Elzbieta continues to grieve. She had heard of a European surgeon who was performing experimental procedures on poor children. She regrets that she had not been able to take Kristoforas to him; she thinks perhaps he might have been saved.
Jurgis continues to search for work but finds nothing. His last resort is the fertilizer factory. This is considered to be the lowest level a man can reach, but Jurgis finally is forced to go and is given a job. The process of making fertilizer involves taking the waste materials from the butchering process, such as entrails and bones, and grinding them up into a fine, dry powder to make fertilizer. The smell is horrible and Jurgis quickly becomes sick to his stomach. The fertilizer gets on his skin and into his pores. When he comes home, it lies half an inch thick on him and pollutes the house. The others cannot eat because of the smell, but after a week, Jurgis becomes acclimated to it. He enjoys getting on the street cars after work and watching the people quickly move away from him with handkerchiefs over their noses.
The family is gradually beginning to pay its debts and save up a little money. The two young boys who were selling newspapers are learning to become street thugs. Their language is peppered with the rough talk of the street. They learn to gamble, and they know the names of all the prostitutes. Jurgis decides they must go back to school in the fall, and Elzbieta must go out and find a job. She secures a position in a sausage factory. It requires standing in one place from seven in the morning until five thirty in the afternoon, except for a half hour at lunch, filling casings with sausage meat.
(The entire section is 427 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
The family now knows the secrets of the meat packing industry. They know that the odd bits of meat that are too spoiled to be sold are chopped up into sausage or else canned. Chemicals and preservatives are added to change the taste of the spoiled meat and to cover the foul odor. Rats crawl over exposed piles of meat and cover them with their droppings. Workers do not bother to remove the dead rats before they send the meat into the grinder, but there are worse things than dead rats in the meat that is sold to the public. All the meat is the same, but flavorings are added to make it “special” and so bring a higher price.
Elzbieta has now succumbed to a numb silence as she stands for hours at her sausage machine. When she meets Jurgis and Ona after work, the three of them walk home in silence. At home, the silence continues until they go to bed. In the morning, they wake in silence and return to work. Occasionally, however, Ona’s dreams reawaken, and she thinks about all the hopes and plans she used to have that have been effectively killed by her life in America. Jurgis has learned of the power of alcohol to numb the mind in the midst of horror. He does not become drunk, but often he spends whatever is in his pockets and comes home in a benumbed state. This is the only happiness he has, but the knowledge that it will soon wear off brings a surliness to his temperament. Ona cannot understand the draw of drink. Jurgis sometimes wishes that she could so that the two of them could drink together.
Through all this, little Antanas continues to bring joy to Jurgis’s heart. Antanas is a year old now and has gone through the usual round of childhood illnesses. At the moment he has measles, but the family decides that, since children only rarely die from measles, they will do without a doctor. They leave Antanas in the care of Kotrina, who is an old woman at thirteen. Antanas is barricaded on the bed for most of the day because the floor is drafty. At night he is tied in bed so he will not disturb the others. Ona is once again pregnant, but her health is failing. She coughs continually, just as Dede Antanas did before he died. Jurgis regrets marrying her and bringing her into this miserable life that is slowly killing her. Jurgis’s bitterness upsets Ona, and she cries on his shoulder until she manages to pull herself together and keep her feelings hidden from her husband.
(The entire section is 446 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
Ona goes through periods of intense crying. After each time, she promises Jurgis that it will never happen again—but it does. In the fall as the holiday season approaches, the women begin to work overtime, sometimes fifteen hours a day. They feel worn out, but they are glad for the extra money it brings. A day or two before Thanksgiving, another snowstorm comes. Elzbieta, Marija, and Jurgis make it home all right but Ona is missing. Jurgis had fallen asleep, but the women wake him up to tell him. He dresses and heads out into the storm to find Ona. It is early morning when he arrives at the stockyards. There he is told that Ona timed out and left at the regular time. No one knows where she went. Jurgis tries to trace down his wife and at last finds her on the streets. She is crying. She says she could not make it home so she stayed at the home of her friend Jadvyga. With a haunted look in her eyes, Ona is led back to the packing house to begin the work day.
Three days before Christmas, Ona once again does not come home. Jurgis goes to Jadvyga’s house, expecting to find her there, but Jadvyga does not know anything about Ona’s whereabouts. What is more, she says Ona never stayed with her previously. Jurgis feels furious that Ona has lied to him. He begins to trace Ona’s route home. He sees her get off the street car and go into the house.
When Jurgis goes inside, Elzbieta tells him that Ona lost her mind; she wandered the streets all night and returned that morning. Jurgis knows this is a lie because he just saw her. He goes into the bedroom and grabs Ona, demanding to know where she has been and why she has been lying to him. He grabs her throat and just barely manages to keep himself from choking her. Ona breaks down and tells him that she has been in Miss Henderson’s bordello. Unwillingly, she tells Jurgis that her boss, Connor, had been trying to seduce her. He promised her that if she submitted, she and her family would be guaranteed jobs for the rest of their lives. If not, they would all be fired and never find a position in the city again. One evening, Connor raped her, but Ona did not cry out for fear of what would happen to her family. On several evenings, Connor took her to Miss Henderson’s. Ona hoped that eventually Connor would grow tired of her, as her pregnancy advanced. Jurgis rushes out of the house and goes to the stock yards. He finds Connor and attacks him, biting his cheek off. Men finally...
(The entire section is 472 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
Jurgis is exhausted and half dazed from his attack on Connor, so he submits quietly to the policemen. He has been in Packingtown for two and a half years, so he is aware of the brutal reputation of the local police. When he is thrown into his cell, Jurgis initially feels some satisfaction at his vengeance on Connor. As his senses clear, however, he realizes the enormity of what he has done. Ona will surely lose her job and he will go to prison; he might even be executed. Ona and the others will not have enough money to live.
Jurgis cannot sleep. The other prisoners, as well as the homeless who are allowed to spend the night in the jail, make too much noise. The smell of fertilizer draws contempt from the other prisoners. In the morning he is given dry bread and drugged coffee, which he does not drink. He is overcome with shame and rage at what has happened and he fears the impact of his actions on his family. They had just recently paid rent two weeks late, which means that rent is due in another week. They do not have the money to pay it, so they will be turned out into the winter streets to die. Jurgis thinks of all they have done to maintain the house. It will all be lost.
Later that morning, a patrol wagon takes Jurgis and other prisoners to the courthouse. He knows he is about to be tried, but he does not know the crime with which he is being charged. He is not sure if Connor is alive or dead. If Connor died from the attack, Jurgis will be executed. As Jurgis enters the courtroom, he realizes the judge is the notorious Pat Callahan. Nicknamed “The Growler,” Callahan grew up devoted to politics. He held several offices but decided to become an “honest” magistrate once his children began to grow up and require that their father have a respectable position. Along with Mike Scully, Callahan rules the local government even as he makes money on the side with brothels.
Connor is not able to appear in court, so Callahan orders that Jurgis be held; he places the bond at three hundred dollars. No one can pay that, so Jurgis is returned to jail. He is stripped naked and walked down the aisle between the cells, subjected to the mockery of the other prisoners. He is bathed extra long to remove the smell of the fertilizer. He is placed in a cell alone—a place that is crawling with cockroaches. In the night, Jurgis hears bells pealing out. He is not sure what is happening until he realizes it is Christmas Eve....
(The entire section is 477 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
On Christmas Day, Jurgis is let out of his cell to get water for cleaning. There is a small exercise area; visitors may come to see the prisoners, separated by two walls of wire. Jurgis looks anxiously to see if any of his family has come, but they have not. When he returns to his cell, he has a cell mate. He introduces himself as Jack Duane and explains that he is a safe cracker. He is an educated man who has fallen on hard times. His father had some bad business luck and committed suicide. Jack had no options, so he turned to a life of crime. Jurgis asks if he thinks of his family at all, but Jack explains that he does not allow himself to do that. Jurgis is fascinated by Jack; he is the only educated person with whom he has ever had close contact. After a week, Jack is released. Before he leaves, he gives Jurgis his card with his mistress’s address on it. He tells Jurgis to look him up should he ever be in need of help.
Jurgis returns to the courthouse for his trial. He looks for his family but sees only Elzbieta and Kotrina. Ona is nowhere in sight, which worries Jurgis. He sees Connor enter the court with his face bandaged. Jurgis has to be restrained from attacking him again. Connor presents his case first, stating that Ona had been fired for impudence. Jurgis tells the judge that Connor had tried to seduce Ona. The judge asks why she did not complain to the superintendent. Jurgis says Connor raped his wife, but Connor denies this, saying this is always what a woman says when she has to be let go. The judge gives Jurgis thirty days in prison. When he leaves the courtroom, Jurgis tries to communicate with Elzbieta but gives up in shame. He is taken to the Cook County Jail.
After Jurgis has been in prison for one week, Stanislovas comes to visit him. He says Ona is sick and they are all starving. The landlord threatened to evict them because they cannot make the monthly payment. Ona tried to go back to work but was turned away. Elzbieta is also unemployed because the sausage factory has closed. Marija cut her hand, and it is infected. The doctor said it would most like have to be amputated. Stanislovas was also fired for not showing up for three days during a snowstorm. Kotrina has started selling newspapers and is moderately successful at it. Stanislovas begs Jurgis for money, but Jurgis only has fourteen cents. Stanislovas leaves, defeated.
(The entire section is 439 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
Jurgis patiently counts the thirty days until he is released. When the thirty days are up, he finds that he is still in prison. He learns that he must pay court costs for the privilege of being sent to jail. He has no money, so he must serve another three days.
When he is finally released, Jurgis is sent out into a recent heavy snow without a coat (he did not wear one when he rushed out of the house to get Connor). He had enough to eat in prison, and the work was the easiest he had ever done. It is raining and he has no idea in which direction his home lies. He asks a boy where the stockyards are, and the boy sends him in the wrong direction. Jurgis reaches the city limits and finds himself in a rural area. He stops a passing farmer for directions and learns that he must turn around and go back the way he came. When Jurgis returns to the city, the streets are treacherous with sleet and snow. His feet are sodden with slush. He finds a policeman and asks directions; he still has five miles to go. He jumps on a streetcar and reaches his street. When he arrives at his home, he is confused because the house has been repainted and repaired. A boy comes out the door, and Jurgis demands to know where his family is. The boy’s mother comes out and explains that the house is brand new. She begins to realize that the agent has hoodwinked them and tells Jurgis that she does not know where his family is.
Jurgis goes to Grandmother Majauszkiene’s home. She tells him that his family was thrown out for nonpayment. They are now at Aniele Jukniene’s, the place where they first lodged on arriving in Chicago. Jurgis is sick with grief that they have lost their home after putting so much of their hard-earned money into it. When he arrives at Aniele’s, he finds the kitchen filled with women. He hears screams and knows they are Ona’s. Marija, whose arm is in a sling, tells him not to go to Ona. Jurgis rushes upstairs but is held back. Ona is giving birth prematurely. There is no money for a doctor. All of them are out of work, and even Aniele is starving. They take a collection and manage to get a dollar and a quarter. Jurgis goes out to find a doctor who will help Ona.
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
Jurgis arrives at the home of Madame Haupt, a German midwife. She is fixing her dinner when Jurgis enters. She is overweight, unhealthy, and filthy. Jurgis is overwrought and has difficulty making her understand what he wants. She explains that she has just come back from a case and has had nothing to eat all day. He begs her to come help Ona. Madame Haupt tells him her fee is twenty-five dollars. His hopes fail; he tells her all he has is a dollar twenty-five. She explodes, telling him that she would not put on her hat for that amount. He rashly promises to get her the rest, but she doubts this when she learns that he has just been released from prison and has no job, and he has no friends from whom he could borrow the money. Jurgis promises to pay her the rest of the money within the month.
When Jurgis and Madame Haupt arrive at the house, chaos is still pouring from the attic. Madame Haupt exclaims at the prospect of climbing up a ladder into an attic. She expresses contempt for people that would put a pregnant woman into such a desolate place to give birth. As Madame Haupt climbs the ladder, Marija tells Jurgis that he must leave.
Jurgis does not know where to go, and he finds himself at the saloon. The saloon keeper senses that Jurgis has reached the end of his rope and gives him some whiskey. Soon, as Jurgis warms up, the saloon keeper tells him he will have to leave the bar because of the smell of fertilizer that still saturates his skin. He places Jurgis in a back room for the night, but Jurgis cannot sleep. When all is quiet, Jurgis awakens the saloon keeper to tell him that he wants to go home. The saloon keeper is surprised; he thought Jurgis had no home to go to.
When Jurgis arrives at Aniele’s house, all is ominously quiet. Madame Haupt comes down, berating them for taking up so much of her time on such a hopeless case. The baby is dead and Ona will soon be dead as well. Overcome with grief, Jurgis rushes up to the attic. Ona opens her eyes once with a brief look of recognition and dies. Jurgis goes downstairs. He encounters Kotrina, who has just returned from selling her newspapers. Jurgis asks her how much money she has, and she shows him the three dollars she has earned. He takes it from her, goes back to the saloon, and demands a bottle of whiskey, intending to get drunk.
(The entire section is 436 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
Jurgis stays drunk for two days. When he returns to Aniele’s home, he finds that Ona has not yet been buried. Aniele berates him for spending all the family’s money on liquor while the women and children have been out begging for money to pay for a mass for his wife. She is to be buried in a pauper’s grave, but enough money has been raised to pay for the mass in advance.
Jurgis climbs up to the attic to find Marija sitting there, as far away from Ona’s corpse as she can. Jurgis sits by Ona, thinking of how much he has loved her and how this life has killed her. He blames himself for her death; she was just eighteen. Elzbieta and Marija have agreed to not say a word of reproach to him. Elzbieta has gone through this before—burying a child who has died too young. She reminds Jurgis that he cannot give up, that he has a son to think of. He must get over his grief and his anger and go out and find a job. He vows to do so, even before Ona is buried. He returns to the fertilizer factory, but he is told there will not be a place for him. He goes to the packing plant where Jonas had worked and is told to return the next day to begin a job pushing a truck. When he comes back, the foreman tells him that he made a mistake and there is no job for him.
Downhearted at this disappointment, Jurgis goes to a saloon. The men tell him that he has most likely been blacklisted for attacking Ona’s boss and that and he will not find any job open to him in Packingtown. Jurgis returns home and discusses what he should do with Marija and Elzbieta. Now that they do not have to make house payments and all the children are working, there is more money. They decide that Jurgis should go downtown to find work. He wanders and finds nothing but a short-term task for which he may earn a few cents.
He goes to a factory that builds harvesting machinery. He sees the cleanliness and friendliness of the place. He is offered a job carrying parts to different sections, for which he is paid a dollar and seventy-five cents a day. He is able to pay Aniele the rent she is due as well as redeem his overcoat from the pawn shop. At the end of nine days, however, a sign is posted that the section of the factory has been closed indefinitely, and once again Jurgis is out of a job.
(The entire section is 449 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
After learning of the closure of the factory, Jurgis goes home, disheartened by yet another exposure of the falsity of the American Dream. He thinks it is a mockery that a man loses his job because he is successful at it. For two days, Jurgis is down, but he does not drink because Elzbieta has the keeping of his money. Antanas is hungry and cries, and Madame Haupt is demanding the rest of her money for attending Ona’s childbirth. Jurgis roams the street for ten days, often sleeping in the police station to escape the sub-zero temperatures. Only the money the children earn from selling their newspapers keeps them from starving. They have encountered some danger as well. One time a woman threatens to call the truant officer on the boys. A man tries to drag Kotrina into a dark alley, and she dreads going to work thereafter.
Juozapas, one of Elzbieta’s boys, rummages through the local dump and finds some frozen scraps of food. He brings this home and feeds it to Antanas, which horrifies Elzbieta. When the baby seems all right, Elzbieta allows Juozapas to go back to the dump. While he is there, a well-dressed woman approaches him and begins asking him questions about his family. When she learns about Jurgis’s time in jail and Ona’s death, she shows up at Aniele’s and meets with the family. Elzbieta tells her their story until the woman begins to weep in sympathy. She sends some food to the family and gives Jurgis a letter to present at a steel mill on the south side of the city; it tells the superintendent that she will not marry him if he does not give Jurgis a job.
The steelworks are fifteen miles away, which means two transfers on streetcars. Jurgis presents his letter at the gate and is ushered into the factory. The superintendent is busy, but the time-keeper shows him around. Jurgis is amazed at the massive equipment used to make steel rails, and he feels fearful at the sight of the pouring liquid metal. He is given a job moving the rails from the production line. Once a furnace explodes, spattering liquid steel on two of the workers. Jurgis helps them but burns his hand in the process, which causes him to miss work for nine days without pay.
Antanas has begun to talk and is even more the joy of Jurgis’s life. He is developing a temper, which pleases his father because the boy will need to be tough to survive. As spring arrives, the streets are flooded with mud. Jurgis returns one day to find a...
(The entire section is 479 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
At the news of Antanas’s death, Jurgis calmly goes up to the attic and views the body. Marija explains that Antanas demanded to go out to play and fell off the sidewalk, which is five feet about street level. She assures Jurgis that he is dead; they had called the doctor. Jurgis says nothing. He goes down the ladder and out the door, then he starts walking down the street.
Jurgis keeps walking until he comes to a railroad crossing. A freight train is passing, and on a sudden impulse Jurgis jumps up into one of the cars. When the train stops, he hides under the cars, fighting in his soul. He gets back on the train, deciding that he is no longer bound to anyone. He will live only for himself, without any obligations. The train goes out into the country. He realizes that it has been three years since he, a man raised in the country, has seen anything but the dirt and filth of the city. He feels a sense of freedom at last.
Jurgis hops off the train and begins walking. He comes upon a farmhouse and asks if he may buy a meal. The farmer tells him to ask “the woman,” who gives him two sandwiches, a piece of pie, and two apples. Jurgis finds a spot along the stream and eats his food. He throws off his clothes and bathes in the stream. He then washes his clothes. While they dry, he sleeps. He comes to another farmhouse, where he is turned away as a tramp. In return for this treatment, Jurgis pulls up the farmer’s recently planted peach trees. He comes to another farm, where the farmer feeds him. He offers Jurgis a job until winter but will have nothing for him after that. Jurgis asks what he will do with his horse in the winter—feed him or turn him out into the cold. The farmer has no reply to this. He suggests that Jurgis might be able to find work in the city, but Jurgis knows this is fruitless.
Jurgis begins the life of a tramp. He travels around, picking fruit or stealing food. Occasionally he will do chores for a meal, but he refuses to stay in one place. When harvest comes, Jurgis is in Missouri, where there is much temporary work. He comes upon the home of a workingman who is from White Russia and speaks Lithuanian. They share reminiscences while the man’s wife bathes her baby. The little boy reminds Jurgis of Antanas. He is overcome by grief and runs out into the pouring rain.
(The entire section is 440 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
In the early fall, Jurgis returns to Chicago with fifteen dollars in his pocket. He separates himself from the other tramps because he has money and they do not. On warm nights, Jurgis sleeps outside in any place he can find where he will not be bothered. In bad weather, he finds cheap lodging houses; he knows the fifteen dollars must last him probably two months until he can find a job.
Jurgis returns to the steel mill and the harvester works, but his positions were given to other men long ago. He avoids answering the want ads in the paper, knowing that most of them are scams by people charging money to procure jobs. However, his next job is the result of his answering an ad. When he applies, Jurgis is asked if he has ever worked in Chicago before. He fears that he is still blacklisted, so he says he has not. He says he is an unskilled laborer from Kansas City. He is offered a job digging tunnels for telephone lines. He is to be paid fifteen cents an hour, and he starts immediately. He is puzzled by the wide tunnels and the tracks inside. He learns later that this was in reality a means of avoiding the teamsters’ union—building underground rails to carry material between the factories without hiring teamsters. When it is discovered, it causes a great scandal, but for now Jurgis is happy to be making some money.
He continues to live cheaply until he is injured when a loaded car slams into his shoulder. He is carried by ambulance to the hospital, where his arm is set. He stays there two weeks over Christmas, which is the best holiday he has spent in America. When he is released from the hospital, he returns to his boarding house to find that the landlady has rented his room and has no more available. He is still too weak to return to work, so he pawns his digging tools. He goes to a revival meeting but feels contemptuous of the evangelists who speak of sin and suffering without ever having to really suffer.
It is now January 1904 and the beginning of a severe recession. Many factories are closing down, putting thousands of men out of work. Jurgis wanders from saloon to saloon, telling his pitiful story in hopes of getting some money. However, there are so many beggars who fake an injury or hard-luck story that the deserving poor have no chance.
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
In the midst of the freezing weather, Jurgis rambles from place to place, trying to find sufficient lodgings for the night. He is allowed to stay in saloons only so long as he buys drinks; eventually he is kicked out. There are many homeless men this winter, and there is stiff competition for warm places to sleep. One evening, Jurgis sees a figure in a blue coat approaching him. He fears being arrested, so he ducks down a street and runs into a drunken, well-dressed, young man called Freddie Jones. He explains to Jurgis that his girlfriend has thrown him out and now he is on his way home. Freddie says his family is away, and they have left him very little money. He invites Jurgis to come home with him. He tells Jurgis to stop a cab and he will pay the fare. He gives Jurgis a hundred dollar bill, telling him to pay the cab with it and keep the change. He had removed the bill from a large roll. Jurgis considers stealing it, but he has not yet committed theft and does not intend to start now.
Jurgis hails a cab and climbs in, though the driver initially stops him. Freddie insists that Jurgis is with him and gives the driver and address on Lake Shore Drive (the wealthy residential section of Chicago). Freddie falls asleep against Jurgis, who considers again the possibility of removing the money roll from Freddie’s pocket. The cab drives up to a huge mansion.
A butler named Hamilton opens the door and lets Freddie and Jurgis in. He gives Jurgis a severe look, but Freddie insists that Jurgis is to be allowed in. He invites Jurgis into the dining room, where a large table is set with food. Jurgis has never seen so much food in his life. Despite Hamilton’s disapproval, Freddie sits down and commands that Hamilton seat Jurgis. Hamilton holds out the chair for Jurgis, but Jurgis thinks he is holding it to keep Jurgis out of it. When he finally understands, he sits and food is set before him. Freddie sends the servants out of the room and then falls asleep. Jurgis is unable to hold back any longer at the sight of all the food and ravenously consumes everything in reach. Hamilton returns and orders Jurgis to leave. He intends to search Jurgis’s pockets, but Jurgis tells him that if he touches him, he will knock him down. As Jurgis leaves, Hamilton kicks him down the stairs into the snow.
(The entire section is 425 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
Jurgis feels humiliated by Hamilton’s treatment, but he is appeased when he remembers that he still has the hundred-dollar bill Freddie Jones gave him. He realizes he will have difficulty changing it because people will assume he stole it. He goes into a saloon and asks the bartender to change it for him. The bartender says he will exchange it if Jurgis buys a drink. Jurgis buys a five-cent beer, and the bartender gives him ninety-five cents in change. A fight breaks out, and Jurgis once again finds himself in court appearing before a judge. The bartender claims that Jurgis gave him a one-dollar bill. When the judge learns that Jurgis has been in jail before, he sends him back to prison for ten days.
While in jail, Jurgis again encounters Jack Duane. As Jurgis talks to Duane and the other prisoners, he decides that he cannot survive in Chicago by being honest. He agrees to meet with Jack once they are released from prison. When Jurgis gets out, he visits Jack in the back of a pawnbroker’s shop, which is a central location for fencing stolen goods. Jack takes Jurgis on his first crime, mugging a well-to-do gentleman. Jack splits the “take” with Jurgis, giving him fifty-five dollars. The next morning, they read about the crime in the papers. The victim has suffered a concussion and lost three fingers from exposure. Jurgis feels guilty, but he soon gets over this. He fully enters a life of crime.
When Jack is forced to leave town because a scandal erupts over the culpability of the police, Jurgis meets Harper, who buys votes for the corrupt political machines. He introduces Jurgis to Mike Scully, who convinces Jurgis to return to the packing house and work from the inside. When Jurgis explains that he has been blacklisted, Scully assures him that this will be taken care of. Jurgis is rehired and earns honest wages as well as the graft of the political world.
Jurgis works hard to win support for the Republican candidate, who has made a deal with the Democratic Scully. On election day, Jurgis buys votes—and makes three hundred dollars for himself. When the Republican candidate wins, Jurgis goes on a drinking spree. Packingtown is the scene of wild celebration because they have managed to elect someone who will support their interests.
(The entire section is 394 words.)
Chapter 26 Summary
After the election, Jurgis keeps working at the packing house and stays away from any political activity. There is pressure on the police to stop providing protection to criminals. Jurgis has three hundred dollars in his bank account, and Mike Scully tells him that something might “turn up.” He finds a place at a decent boarding house. He learns that Elzbieta and her family have moved downtown. He forgets them and spends more time with his gang of single young men, who party around town; he turns to gambling and women.
In the spring, the meat packers and the unions have to make a new agreement. Because the price of meat has gone up, the unions want the laborers’ wages to go up as well. The packers do not agree and a strike is called. Jurgis goes to Scully and asks if he can find him a job while the strike is on. Scully suggests that he keep his present job because the packers will need trained men. Jurgis is shocked that Scully wants him to be a scab—taking the place of union workers and not supporting the strike. He suggests that this will make him ineffective in politics, but Scully tells him that he can no longer use him in that capacity anyway. Jurgis supported a Republican, and Scully is not sure when he will back a Democratic candidate. Jurgis says he can be a Democrat just as well, but Scully explains that he cannot switch so easily and still be held as credible.
Jurgis reports to work, which pleases his boss. Jurgis says he believes he should now be paid three dollars an hour, and the boss agrees. Jurgis is overjoyed until he learns that the bookkeepers are being paid five dollars an hour. Men like Jurgis are held as heroes for keeping the meat moving to the markets. The strikers, however, feel differently. Police are called to keep the peace, but the strikers threaten the scabs, leading to violence. This violence draws out the “lower element,” who come more for the excitement than for the wages. They are not above provoking violence. Jurgis is made a boss, but he finds the new workers are lazy and violent. They pay him off to let them stay on the job, so Jurgis makes even more money. Jurgis had been promised that he would keep his place as a boss once the strike is over, but when he learns that the strike has been settled with the promise that there would be no discrimination against union members, he fears for the worst. When an agreement has been reached, the strikers return but union leaders are not...
(The entire section is 558 words.)
Chapter 27 Summary
Jurgis now lives like an outcast. He is as poor as he has ever been, but it feels worse because he has become used to a higher standard of living. He expects more but receives less. The hard times continue across the country, and Jurgis is unable to find any work, even performing chores. He buys day-old bread, but eventually even that is beyond his means; he looks through the trash for edible bits. He steals a cabbage and must run to avoid capture. The Chicago newspapers open up soup kitchens, but the lines for these are so long that Jurgis rarely gets any food. It is election time, but few people are interested. He attends a meeting but it brings back too many memories of when he had more money and more influence in the political process. He leaves and walks through the rain until he runs into an old acquaintance that had been at his wedding feast. He had stopped her with the intention of begging the price of a night’s lodging when he recognized her. She explains that she does not have any money with her; however, she can tell him where to find Marija, who has a place to live and is doing well. She gives him her address on Clark Street.
When Jurgis arrives at Marija’s address on Clark Street, he finds it is a stately house. He rings the doorbell and a servant asks who he is. When he says he wants to see Marija, she tells him there is no one there by that name. He turns to leave but is blocked by policemen who have come to raid the place. The residents of the house take off in various directions. Jurgis realizes that this is a house of prostitution. He sees a heavily made-up woman and eventually recognizes her as Marija, who has become a prostitute. They go to her room so that Marija can get dressed to be taken down to the police station.
Marija explains that she makes enough money to keep Elzbieta and the children fed. Stanislovas is dead. He had a job carrying beer to the bosses. One night he drank some of it and went to sleep. When they found him the next morning, he had been eaten by rats. Jurgis is horrified, thinking of the young boy he had to beat to get him to go out in the cold to work.
Jurgis agonizes over the honorable lives he and Marija have given up. He cannot fault Marija for being a whore because he is a thief. Marija tells him they would have all been all right if they had realized what it took to survive. Ona could have supported them all if she had become a prostitute. Jurgis is taken...
(The entire section is 478 words.)
Chapter 28 Summary
In the morning, Jurgis is driven to the court along with the arrested prostitutes and clients. He is terrified when he sees that it is the same court and the same judge he had when he had a sentence suspended in the days of his activity with the political machine. Jurgis is believed to be a “suspicious character,” so he is tried separately. The other clients are reprimanded and released. Jurgis said he was only visiting his sister, so he is told to keep his sister in a better place. He is released as well, but the prostitutes are fined five dollars each, which is paid by their madame.
Jurgis and Marija return to her room in the bordello. Jurgis asks Marija if she has been ill; her face looks like yellow parchment and her eyes have black rings around them. Marija calmly explains that she is addicted to morphine. Jurgis notices that her conversation is littered with vulgarity and swear words, attributable to the hard life she now lives. Marija explains that drugs are the only way the girls can survive. She tells Jurgis that she does not plan to leave, even if she could. She explains the system: Girls are “recruited” and quickly overcharged for food, lodging, and clothing, which leaves them in debt to the madame, who will not release them until the debt is paid. Because the debt is much more than they can save from their small wages, they are kept in perpetual slavery. Marija also tells Jurgis of the practice of White slavery, in which girls are brought from overseas, believing that they are coming to America to work as factory laborers or servants. They are brought to bordellos, drugged, raped, and forced to remain and work as prostitutes to get their clothes back.
Marija tells Jurgis to go to Elzbieta, but Jurgis refuses to do this until he has a job. He still feels guilty for running off and leaving them after Antanas’s death, but Marija tells him that no one blames him. Jurgis heads for Elzbieta’s but decides to get something to eat first. After that, he decides the night is warm enough that he can sleep outside and wait until morning to face Elzbieta. He wanders into a socialist political meeting and falls asleep. He is awakened by the woman next him, who tells him that if he listens to the speech he might find the answers he is seeking. The speech focuses on the plight of the working class and the heartlessness of the government. Jurgis feels rejuvenated by this message of hope of change and joins the crowd...
(The entire section is 448 words.)
Chapter 29 Summary
Jurgis is overwhelmed with emotion at the close of the speech. He no longer sees himself as a victim of fate but as an active agent in his own destiny. Another man, the chairman of the party, steps up to speak, but his voice is weak compared to that of the previous speaker; it seems to be a profanation of the mood. A collection is taken up but Jurgis does not have a single penny to give. The floor is opened to questions, which seems like a sacrilege to Jurgis. This calls for action, not talking. He feels ready to organize and fight the forces of injustice. As the discussion goes on, Jurgis sees a more realistic picture in which he is a “hobo,” dirty and smelly.
When the meeting breaks up, Jurgis is distraught. Since his emotions have been so elevated, he has forgotten that he is poor and homeless, hungry, and destitute. He has no place to sleep that night. He fears that once he leaves the building, the feelings that have risen in his breast will disappear and his former life will take over once again.
He tries to talk with the speaker but is told that the speaker is too tired. The speaker, however, stops him and asks him questions. Jurgis explains that he has gone through everything he mentioned but he has never heard the message the speaker gave that night. The speaker explains that this is Socialism, but this is not a word Jurgis has ever heard. The speaker realizes Jurgis is Lithuanian and calls another party member, known as Comrade Ostrinski, who speaks Lithuanian. He tells Jurgis that Ostrinski will explain to him the principles of Socialism.
Ostrinski asks him if he has a place to stay, and Jurgis explains that he is homeless. Ostrinski tells him that he has no place to keep Jurgis, but he decides that it is better for Jurgis to sleep on the kitchen floor among comrades than to be out in the night without friends. Jurgis agrees and goes home with Ostrinski. Ostrinski’s wife and children live in very humble lodgings. Ostrinski explains that he is a “pants finisher,” a tailor who finishes up the work of others. His eyesight is failing, however, and he has not saved up any money. Jurgis and Ostrinski stay up late into the night as explains the basic principles of the Socialist message, which is spread all over the world. Jurgis goes to sleep with visions of the workers of Packingtown marching against the bosses to take control of the stockyards.
(The entire section is 431 words.)
Chapter 30 Summary
After Jurgis has breakfast with Ostrinski and his family, he goes to Elzbieta’s home. He does not speak about his past misdeeds and guilt; he only talks of his newfound purpose in Socialism. At first Elzbieta thinks Jurgis has lost his mind, but she eventually believes that his insanity is confined to his political views. She is impervious to his Socialist arguments. At last she agrees to go to some meetings, but she does not countenance paying dues to the Socialist Party.
For a week, Jurgis wanders the streets of Chicago, trying to find a job. On a whim, he enters a hotel and asks if they have any work for him. When the manager asks what he can do, Jurgis states that he is able to do anything requested. He assures the manager that he does not drink. The manager explains that he fired his current porter seven times for drinking and has decided that he has reached his limit. He warns Jurgis that the work is hard. It pays thirty dollars a month, along with board. Jurgis accepts the job and begins immediately. When he later tells Ostrinski where he is working, Ostrinski tells him that the manager is Tommy Hinds, one of the best Socialist speakers and party leaders in the nation. The next morning, Jurgis tells Mr. Hinds that he is a Socialist. Hinds greets this news with relief; he had been worried that he had just fired a good Socialist and hired a capitalist.
Hinds started as a blacksmith’s helper. When he joined the Union army in the Civil War, he became acquainted with graft for the first time. When he went into business after the war, he was in competition with companies with shady business practices. In the South, laborers were mostly convicts, which led to lower prices. The businesses in the North, especially in Massachusetts where Hinds was from, were not able to compete with them. This situation led Hinds to join the Socialist Party.
Jurgis meets more Socialists and begins to read whatever material he can find that supports the Socialist ideology. Hinds has him speak to other possible Socialist candidates. At first Jurgis struggles to tell his story, but with practice he becomes an ardent speaker. At Packingtown, more and more of the workers learn of Socialism and become followers. This causes difficulties for Mike Scully, the Democratic boss, because he is left with few followers to support his party. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans hold the hearts and minds of the workingmen of Chicago like...
(The entire section is 432 words.)
Chapter 31 Summary
Jurgis goes to see Marija as soon as he gets a job. He tells her that she can quit her job as a prostitute and leave. She says she cannot. Not only is she now a drug addict but she will not be able to escape her past. No matter where she goes, there is always the likelihood of some man recognizing her and revealing her past life. She tells Jurgis to leave; she will always be a prostitute. Jurgis finally leaves because he sees that he is irritating her. He walks away with deep sadness and returns to Elzbieta’s, who is ill a great deal of the time now. The boys have picked up many bad habits from the street and are out of control. Jurgis despairs when he thinks of what his family has become.
One evening, Jurgis receives a call from Harry Adams, a friend who is also an ardent Socialist. Adams has received an invitation from a man named Fisher, a Chicago millionaire with Socialist leanings, to attend a gathering at his home. There will be a journalist from an Eastern magazine who is interested in the Socialist movement in Chicago. Adams invites Jurgis to go with him, and Jurgis accepts. Fisher’s home is located in the Ghetto because Fisher wants to be close to the workingman whose lives he wants to improve.
Jurgis feels nervous when he sees that the other guests include three ladies. This is a class of people around whom he has never had much success. He listens to conversations as the Socialists discuss different aspects of the movement. One man called Lucas used to be a traveling evangelist. Lucas gave up his ministry to devote himself to the “true faith” of Socialism. Nicholas Schliemann had been a professor of philosophy until he felt that he was selling his soul. Schliemann and Lucas discuss the role of religion in the Socialist society. They agree that the Jesus depicted in art and by organized religion has no place in the movement. It is only the Jesus of the Bible, the defender of the outcast and the oppressed, who is the true Savior. They discuss world affairs, especially the need for Socialism in Russia. Schliemann sees the progress in mechanization as a positive good—it releases people from mundane tasks so they can focus on ideas and the life of the mind.
Jurgis is impressed with what he hears. In the next election, there are more Socialist votes across the country than ever before. He sees that the movement is picking up speed. Soon it will be the most influential thought system in the nation....
(The entire section is 450 words.)