The Jungle Ch 1-12

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Naïf

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42 Terms
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Naïf

naïve

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Allegory

a literary device with a symbolic meaning

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In Medias Res

beginning in the middle of a story

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Itinerant

working for a short time in various places

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Kosher

food approved to be eaten by Jewish tradition

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Tallow

a hard fat obtained from animals (can be used for making soap)

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Lard

semi-solid white fat obtained from a pig (can be used for cooking)

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Pepsin

a digestive enzyme that helps break down proteins into polypeptides

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Monopoly

exclusive control over a sector of the economy by one corporation/entity

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Cog

a gear in machine

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Besieged

surrounded by armed forces

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Consumption

disease/tuberculosis

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Grippe

disease/influenza

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laissez-faire

"let do" - no government intervention in the economy

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Piecework

paid based on how much work you do

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Tanning

converting animal skin into leather

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Jurgis Rudkus

A Lithuanian immigrant who comes to America with his wife, Ona. Jurgis is a strong, determined individual with a faith in the American Dream of self-betterment, but his health, family, and hopes are slowly destroyed by the miserable working and living conditions in Packingtown. Jurgis, who doesn’t elicit much more from the reader than pity, is an obvious instrument that Sinclair uses to express his vision of the exploitation of the worker by capitalism and his redemption by socialism.

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Ona Lukoszaite

Teta Elzbieta’s stepdaughter and Jurgis’s wife. A kind, lovely, and optimistic girl, Ona is ruined by the forces of capitalism that work against the family, particularly after she is raped by her boss, Phil Connor.

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Teta Elzbieta Lukoszaite

Ona’s stepmother and the mother of six others. A resilient, strong-willed old woman, Teta Elzbieta is one of the strongest and most important characters in The Jungle. Sinclair uses her to represent the redemptive power of family, home, and tradition.

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Marija Berczynskas

Ona’s cousin, who travels to America with the rest of the family because her employer in the old country is unkind to her. Marija is a large, strong woman, capable of standing up for herself; because she first tries to fight back against the corrupt bosses, she represents a spirit of defiance among the immigrants that is slowly crushed.

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Dede Antanas Rudku

Jurgis’s father, who travels to America with the rest of the family. A proud man, Dede Antanas is prevented by his old age from obtaining a job through normal means. He has to resort to the humiliation of paying a man a third of his wages in return for a job, whose unsanitary and unsafe working conditions destroy his health.

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Antanas Rudkus

Ona and Jurgis’s son. Antanas is a strong, sturdy little boy, but he drowns in the mud in the street while Jurgis is at work. The death of Antanas signals the death of hope in Jurgis’s life.

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Grandmother Majauszkiene

The family’s Lithuanian neighbor when they move into their house. A concerned old woman, Grandmother Majauszkiene has lived in Packingtown for many years and has seen one generation after another of immigrants ground into ruin by the merciless labor practices of the factories. She became a socialist before she even came to America.

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Juozapas Lukoszaite

One of Teta Elzbieta’s two crippled children, injured when a wagon ran over one of his legs when he was a toddler. Juozapas unwittingly helps the family when he meets a rich lady while foraging for food in the local dump.

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Kotrina Lukoszaite

One of Teta Elzbieta’s children, who is forced to care for the children and do household chores. When Jurgis is sent to prison, Kotrina has to go to work selling newspapers on the streets with her able-bodied brothers.

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Stanislovas Lukoszaite

One of Teta Elzbieta’s children, a young boy of about fourteen. Stanislovas shirks his responsibilities as a wage earner because he is terrified of frostbite. Jurgis often has to beat him to make him go to work.

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Jonas

Teta Elzbieta’s brother, who first encourages the family to travel to America. After months of poverty in Packingtown, Jonas disappears, and the family never hears from him again. His absence deprives the family of a key wage earner and throws them into a greater financial crisis.

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Miss Henderson

The forelady in Ona’s factory. Cruel and bitter, Miss Henderson is the jilted mistress of one of the factory superintendents. She also runs a brothel and arranges to get jobs for some of the prostitutes who work for her. She hates Ona because Ona is a “decent married girl,” and she and her toadies try to make Ona as miserable as possible

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Mike Scully

A corrupt, wealthy democrat in Chicago who owns the festering dump in which Juozapas and other children forage for food. Scully makes money off the housing scheme to which Jurgis’s family falls victim. He works at rigging elections, and Jurgis becomes one of his henchmen during his brief stint in the Chicago criminal underworld.

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Jokubas Szedvilas

The failing proprietor of a delicatessen in Packingtown who knows Jonas from the old country. A kind but troubled man, Jokubas represents the harsh reality of capitalism and reveals the naïveté of Jurgis’s dreams of success.

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Ch 1

The novel opens with scenes of an immigrant wedding reception in the Chicago meatpacking district during the early 1900s. Throngs of wedding guests arrive at the bar for free food and drink to celebrate the wedding of 16-year-old Ona Lukoszaite and her new husband, Jurgis Rudkus. The party is orchestrated by Ona's cousin, the fierce and determined Marija Berczynskas. Marija works tirelessly to ensure there is enough food for the many guests, and that everyone enjoys the dancing and celebration.

The couple has hired Tamoszius Kuszleika, a fiddle player, and two other musicians as the evening's entertainment. After a few speeches are given, including a solemn speech from Jurgis's father, Dede (Grandfather) Antanas, it is time for the evening's main event: the acziavimas—a traditional Lithuanian dance in which all male guests dance with the bride before depositing cash into a hat to cover the evening's expenses and give the couple a bit of money to build their future. However, few men follow the tradition; many simply leave without making a donation. Marija is furious and Ona is devastated. The debt they have incurred for the party is crippling. On top of it all, they are swindled by the bar owner who has been keeping a tab of their expenses. As the evening comes to a close, Jurgis and Ona leave the party without a farewell, stepping over sleeping drunks in the early morning hours. Ona hasn't been given any vacation time from her job, and despite the massive debt of the party, Jurgis tells her not to go to work the next morning. "I will earn more money," he tells her confidently. "I will work harder."

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Ch 2

The novel flashes back to when Jurgis and his family were still in Lithuania. Jurgis had been a hard-working farm boy, strong and physically fit. In addition to being strong, Jurgis was also determined. When Ona's father said he wasn't good enough to marry his daughter, Jurgis went away to work hard and prove he could make something of himself. During that time, Ona's father died and a series of corrupt government dealings left the family nearly destitute. Jurgis stepped in to claim his "prize," and at the suggestion of Ona's cousin Jonas, agreed to take the family to America to start over. People from home warned him that work was difficult to find in Chicago, but Jurgis wasn't convinced: "Do you [believe] that with these arms ... people will ever let me starve?"

When they arrived in America, the only word the family knew was "Chicago," but kindhearted people put them on a train and taught them the word "stockyard." As soon as the train reached Packingtown, the family was overcome with new sights, sounds, and scents. They met up with a friend from home, Jokubas Szedvilas, who owned the local delicatessen in Packingtown. Szedvilas brought them to Mrs. Jukniene who ran a filthy local boarding house. Despite the absolute rottenness of Packingtown, the family felt hopeful that their situation was only temporary and hard work would quickly create a better life.

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Ch 3

As the delicatessen owner, Jokubas has enough connections in town to find work for Jonas and old Antanas. Jurgis lines up with many other men outside the factories and is quickly chosen from the crowd based on his size. Thrilled, Jurgis returns home. Later that day Jokubas brings the family on a tour of Packingtown. First they see the 25,000 pens, crammed with livestock that will be killed and packaged by the factory today (and every day after). Then they are escorted into the pork factory where they witness the slaughter of hundreds of pigs by an efficient machine that swings the hogs into the air by one leg and whips them around to have their throats slit. Then a series of "wonderful machines" scrape the carcass of bristles, cut open the breastbone, remove the entrails, lop off the head, and cut it into various pieces. Nothing from the hog's body is wasted, from the fat to the skin to the bristles, bones, and meat—everything is profitable. The party then travels to the cow-killing chamber, where 400–500 cows are slaughtered every hour, and witness much of the same. Despite the horrors of what he sees, Jurgis cannot wait to begin his new job and become part of this extraordinary process.

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Ch 4

Jonas happily begins his new job at the meatpacking plant. His job is to use a heavy broom to sweep the "smoking entrails" from the cows into a large trap in the floor. It is exhausting work and the stench is "overwhelming," but Jonas is thrilled to earn a pay check. The rest of the family has found work as well, with Jonas using the policeman's connections, and Marija determinedly knocking on every door in Packingtown until she secures a job painting meat tins.

Feeling optimistic the family decides to buy a house after seeing one advertised on a poster. Even though no one has owned real estate before, they figure a house payment makes more financial sense than paying rent each month. The house costs $1,500 but only $300 is needed as a down-payment, with monthly payments of $12 to follow. On his first day at the factory, Jurgis earns $1.57, and feels sure that he can manage the house payment on his own. With so many other members of the family also working, they believe they will be able to support themselves. When they tour the house, however, it does not seem as new as the posters described, yet they decide to buy it anyway. Jurgis takes it on himself to consult with a lawyer to see if the contract is any good. He spends precious cash to get this legal opinion, which verifies that contract is solid. After some initial confusion with the paperwork, the family hands over what remains of its savings. //////////////

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Ch 5

The family spends every waking moment planning its move into the new house. They have only three days from when they sign their paperwork to move out of their lodging so they don't have to pay another week's rent. They realize that they have no furniture or home goods, so they must spend what little money they have left over furnishing the house. They decide to take advantage of a rent-to-own offer they see advertised. Although they have very little, the family is brimming over with happiness.

Work is going well for Jurgis, who enjoys the high-paced environment that keeps him on his toes, pressuring him to move faster and faster if he wants to keep up with production. He is exhausted when he returns home each night, but he feels useful. He is somewhat dismayed that his co-workers seem to hate their jobs. He also refuses to join the union when they request his membership.

Dede Antanas is finally offered a job, but he must pay a finders-fee of 30% of his wages to the man who offered him the work. This type of "graft" is common in Packingtown, he learns, and he eagerly accepts the offer, hoping to be of use to his family. After only two days at his new job cleaning out traps, Dede Antanas has become bitter and depressed, hating his work. Jurgis also feels a bit disillusioned when he is asked to stay late at work disposing of injured cows left behind on the transport train.

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Ch 6

Because they are so in love, Jurgis and Ona are eager to get married even though they don't have any money for the reception. When they suggest a simple ceremony with no party afterward, the old generation—like Teta Elzbieta—are mortified. They believe the reception money will be returned to them in gifts from the guests, but it's a matter of scrounging up the $200 they estimate the party will cost.

Around the same time, the family learns more about their house. A neighbor, whom they call Grandmother Majauszkiene, informs them that their house is about 15 years old—not new as it had been advertised. It had been built by the same dishonest company that built all the houses on their block, using the flimsiest, cheapest material possible. Jurgis and his family were the fifth to try to own it, but Grandmother Majauszkiene expects they will fail too. When Jurgis protests that they make more than enough money to cover the mortgage, Grandmother Majauszkiene informs them that they also have to pay interest on their loan, a fact that sickens Jurgis. He rushes to read over the paperwork and learns that Grandmother Majauszkiene is right: next month they will have to pay their $12 rent plus $7 interest on their loan. As usual, Jurgis simply states, "I will work harder." He soon realizes, however, that Ona must also go to work. Because there are no jobs available, Ona must bribe a forewoman $10 for a position sewing covers on hams. Stanislovas, Teta Elzbieta's oldest son, must also leave school and find a job using doctored paperwork that misrepresents his age. He finds work filling cans with lard.

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Ch 7

Jurgis and Ona's wedding reception has left them $100 in debt. As a result, Jurgis begins his disillusionment with America. Here, he realizes, "you went about with your soul filled with suspicion and hatred." He learns that you must search for opportunities to take advantage of others while fighting to protect yourself from exploitation. He doesn't yet realize is that everyone is taking advantage of him all the time. His house is built above a cesspool that holds 15 years of sewage; the milk he buys is watered down and adulterated with formaldehyde; canned peas are tinned with poisonous chemicals; meat, bread, jam, and butter have all been doctored to ensure companies maximize profits. His family can barely afford to eat, so when winter comes they cannot afford blankets, coats, or boots. When their house becomes infested with cockroaches, the treatments they spend precious money on fail too, so they must become content to live alongside vermin. For all of these reasons, Jurgis's family, like the rest in Packingtown, struggle with constant illness. //////////////////////

Chemicals in the pickle room eat through old Antanas's boots and begin eating into his flesh. He dies soon after from a tuberculosis epidemic that sweeps through Packingtown, picking off the weak and elderly. After Stanislovas witnesses a boy's ears break off from frostbite, he is too afraid to walk in the cold. Jurgis must carry him home from work each night or pay to put him in a transport car. The killing beds are freezing and the only place men have to eat their food is in the local bars (where they must order at least one drink). No matter what the family does, they feel they cannot escape the cold.

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Ch 8

Despite the brutal winter, Marija finds happiness when she falls in love with Tamoszius Kuszleika, the fiddle player from Jurgis and Ona's wedding. The couple saves their money and hopes to get married in the spring, but Marija is devastated when her canning factory closes after the Christmas rush. None of the workers were given notice, and with hundreds of women competing for the few jobs available in Packingtown, Marija is unable to find new work. Everyone else feels the effects of the production slump as well. Jurgis is forced to spend his entire day at the factory, but often works only a few hours and is only paid for the time he is actually working. Feeling desperate, Jurgis relents and joins the union. Soon, his entire family proudly wears their union buttons and Jurgis is like a religious disciple, proclaiming the benefits of unionizing to those who hold out against it.

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Ch 9

One of the immediate benefits of joining the union is that a man arranges for Jurgis to get his American citizenship. He is given a half-day off work (with pay!) to sign his paperwork. After he becomes a citizen, he is allowed to vote in elections. A "night watchman" always brings Jurgis to the polls, shows him which box to check, and then pays him for his time. Buying votes is just one way the Democratic Party boss Mike Scully exercises his corruption. He is behind nearly every graft in the city, a practice that has made him rich and powerful—more powerful than the mayor of Chicago. The narrator lists various scandals Scully has been involved with, and then lists the terrible medical side effects of workers in various Packingtown jobs. Jurgis goes out among the other Lithuanians to spread his new-found understanding of unions. He is surprised by how vehement he has become in such a short time.

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Ch 10

Spring arrives but the family is barely scraping by. Marija has given up hope of getting married because she knows she could never leave the family; they would never survive without her income. One circumstance after another steals whatever meager savings they manage to accumulate. Their water pipe freezes and bursts, flooding their house. The plumber swindles them. They learn that their homeowner's insurance policy has expired and they must pay to renew it. Jurgis knows that they have been "plundered" but refuses to admit defeat.

Spring turns to summer, bringing its own set of miseries. A plague of flies descends on the city. The heat is stifling, and it isn't rare for a man to simply drop dead from heatstroke in the killing beds. Relief comes when Marija's canning factory reopens. Her job is short lived, however, when she protests against a corrupt forewoman who doesn't pay her fairly for her work. When she is fired, she claims it is because of her union membership. Despite all the financial setbacks, Jurgis insists that Ona, who is pregnant, must have a male doctor, not a cheap "dirty" midwife. The doctor's fee will be at least ten times a midwife's, but Jurgis is steadfast. Ona, meanwhile, is having her own troubles at work. Her forewoman, who also runs a brothel downtown, dislikes Ona because she is a "decent married girl."

At the end of the chapter the baby, a beautiful boy named Antanas, is born. He is the joy of his parents' lives, even though they have very little time to spend with him. Ona goes back to work after only a week, and Jurgis is working day and night to make more money.

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Ch 11

Marija finds a job as a beef trimmer in a canning factory. She is able to begin saving again, and once again begins dreaming of a wedding. She opens a savings account to keep her money safe. One morning, however, Marija sees a huge line outside the bank and hears that it's gone bankrupt. She spends two full days in line waiting to withdraw her money during the "run." When she finally reaches the counter, she gets her money; learning it was completely safe all along, she wants to re-deposit it, but the bank refuses to let her. She has no choice but to sew the money into her clothes and wear it on her all times. Meanwhile, Jurgis and Ona are also able to scrape a few dollars together to put in savings, especially with the extra cash Jurgis makes for selling his vote during election season.

Winter returns, bringing deep snow and freezing winds. Jurgis must carry both Ona and Stanislovas on his shoulders to and from work—Ona because she is so fragile, and Stanislovas because he is so terrified of the cold. Jurgis fears they will not survive the winter. One afternoon, a steer runs amok in the killing bed and while scrambling to escape, Jurgis twists his ankle. At first he thinks the injury is nothing, but by the end of the day he can hardly walk. He misses three weeks of work and plunges into a terrible depression. The only relief is that he is able to spend time with baby Antanas.

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Ch 12

After three weeks, Jurgis attempts to return to work, but the pain in his ankle is excruciating. He finally calls a doctor who says that Jurgis has dislocated a tendon and must rest for at least two months. Certain his family will starve, Jurgis has no choice but to pull two more of Teta Elzbieta's children from school and put them to work. Stanislovas's worst fears come through, and he loses use of his fingers to frostbite. Still, he is forced to work at the canning factory every morning, with Jurgis often having to beat him with a stick to get him out the door. In order to survive, the family must borrow from Marija's wedding savings. Even Tamoszius Kuszleika impoverishes himself so the family can survive. On top of everything else, Jonas disappears. When Jurgis is healed, he tries to find work but no one wants to hire him. He is no longer strong and confident—he is as weak and beaten down as the old men he mocked upon first moving to America.

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