header logo
The Jungle

The Jungle Summary


Here you will find a The Jungle summary (Upton Sinclair's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

P.S.: As an Amazon Associate, we earn money from purchases made through links in this page. But the summaries are totally free!

Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

The Jungle Summary Overview

A young couple and their family, recent Lithuanian immigrants, throw their matrimonial feast at a bar in a grimy, perilous, and hard-to-survive area of Chicago known as Packingtown. They soon find themselves in debt to the bar owner and face the harsh reality of life in America, contrary to their hopeful vision of the American Dream. The young man, energetic and optimistic, finds work along with some family members and they buy a house, only to be swindled with hidden costs and poor construction. As the cost of living grows, everyone including children are forced into labour in terrible conditions with rampant corruption. Eventually, the hardship takes the life of the man's father. As the harsh winter sets in, the man works in a freezing slaughterhouse, risking his life daily. Despite their struggles, the family is not able to save enough for a wedding between a family member and her suitor. The woman loses her job and when she voices her concern about being cheated of her wages, she gets fired. In the midst of all this, the young bride is now pregnant, gives birth to a healthy boy, but is forced back to work a week later by her corrupt supervisor. Any mishap is disastrous in Packingtown; the young man injures himself and loses his job, and his youngest brother-in-law dies of food poisoning. He is forced to work in the foulest factory and resorts to alcohol to cope. The woman is pregnant again when she is forced to sleep with her boss. In a fit of rage, the man attacks her boss and is jailed. After an unfair trial, he is sentenced to a month in prison. Once out, he finds his family evicted and living in their initial, rundown boarding house. His wife dies due to premature labour along with their unborn child, and the man spirals into a drinking binge. After the tragic death of his only surviving child, he abandons the rest of his family and wanders alone. After multiple jobs, injuries, and another jail sentence, he finds himself living on charity. He becomes a criminal, and later a corrupt political worker. In the end, he stumbles into a socialist political rally and is deeply moved. He finds a job at a socialist hotel and is finally able to reunite with his remaining family.

chapter 1

In the early 1900s, Lithuanian immigrants Ona Lukoszaite and Jurgis Rudkus are tying the knot in Chicago. They host a traditional Lithuanian wedding feast, or veselija, in a hall near the city's bustling meat-packing district, Packingtown. Amid a lively atmosphere of food, beer, and music, needy bystanders are also invited in for a meal. The quality of the music is overlooked amid the joyous occasion. The main event involves a dance, the acziavimas. The guests form a moving circle around the bride while each male guest dances with her. After the dance, each guest places money in a hat, held by Ona’s stepmother, Teta Elzbieta, to contribute to the wedding costs, which can be more than a yearly income for some. However, some guests exploit the generosity of the occasion, feasting and drinking without contributing monetarily. These dishonest guests depart openly or sneak out. Meanwhile, the liquor provider often overcharges or serves low-quality alcohol. The honest guests, friends of the couple, end up bearing the larger part of the expenses due to these dishonest practices. Ona, noticing the number of people leaving without contributing, becomes anxious about the wedding costs. Jurgis assures her that he will work harder to pay the bill. Their celebration is tainted by the harsh reality of employment in Packingtown – being a minute late results in a docked hour's pay, while arriving twenty minutes late means job loss. This dire situation is a constant threat for men, women, and children, who work long hours for meager wages.

chapter 2

The backstory of Jurgis and his kin is provided by the storyteller. Jurgis, a strong young man, hails from Lithuania's rural areas, coming to Chicago in pursuit of a better life. After Ona's father passes away, the family is left in debt and without their farm. The idea of migrating to America, where earnings are significantly higher, is floated. Ona is reluctant to depart from her siblings and Teta Elzbieta, so her uncle Jonas, who knew a man who prospered in America, motivates the family to plan for the journey. Jurgis dedicates months to save money for the trip while his father, Dede Antanas, pledges to join him and Ona's family. Marija Berczynskas, Ona's cousin, becomes part of the family after enduring harsh treatment by her employer in Lithuania. She believes her strong body would be more valued in America. Sadly, Jurgis and his extended family, a total of twelve, fall victim to tricksters in both Lithuania and America, resulting in their savings being significantly depleted when they reach Chicago. Unexpectedly, Jonas spots the delicatessen of Jokubas Szedvilas, the man he touted as having made a fortune. Jokubas, despite owning a delicatessen in Chicago, is not a tycoon but rather financially unstable. He directs Jonas and the family to a run-down, overcrowded boardinghouse managed by a destitute widow where they begin their new life. Jurgis and Ona explore their new surroundings, which are marked by a putrid stench of decaying animal carcasses and feces, with smog enveloping the area. Children rummage through nearby trash heaps. The land around the stockyards is filled with buildings constructed on dumps, referred to as "made land". After observing Packingtown from a distance, Jurgis is determined to find employment there.

chapter 3

Jokubas shows the family around Packingtown, impressing them with the enormous number of livestock ready for slaughter. The grim fate of these animals dampens even Jurgis's positivity. However, he's fascinated by the bustling human operations. Jokubas cynically points out the hygiene regulations, hinting at their inefficiency. The official assigned to inspect the butchered pigs for tuberculosis often misses several. Rotten meat is covertly treated before mixing it with the remaining meat for packaging.

chapter 4

Jurgis starts work, clearing the remains of slaughtered cows. Even amid the stench, he's hopeful because he's earning over two dollars for a twelve-hour work shift. His family is also making progress: Jonas might have found a job, and Marija is now a label painter earning almost two dollars a day. Jurgis insists that Teta Elzbieta, Ona and the children shouldn't work. He wants the kids to get an education, particularly Stanislovas who is thirteen. Unfortunately, Dede Antanas is not as lucky and can't find work due to his age, leading him to feel like a burden. The family stumbles across an ad for a four-room house selling for fifteen hundred dollars. The initial deposit is three hundred dollars and the monthly payment is twelve. When Ona, Marija, and Teta Elzbieta visit the real estate agent, he convinces them that they must act fast as the houses are in high demand. After calculating their budget, it appears that they can afford it. Upon visiting the house, however, they find it is not as large or in as good condition as advertised. No other houses in the neighborhood seem to be occupied, making them suspect that the deal might be fraudulent. To finalize the purchase, Ona and Teta Elzbieta, along with Jokubas, meet with the agent. They notice that the contract mentions the house as a "rental". They hire a lawyer only to find out he's friends with the agent. The lawyer reassures them that everything is fine and they close the deal. When Jurgis learns about this, he is furious. He takes the contract to another lawyer who explains that the house is indeed a rental until fully paid off. This also makes it easier to evict anyone not meeting the monthly payments. Jurgis returns home, somewhat pacified.

chapter 5

After the family acquires their essential home items, they begin to adjust to their new life with joy. Despite the grueling workload at the meatpacking factory, Jurgis is unperturbed and actually takes pleasure in the work. He is taken aback when he realizes his co-workers despise their jobs and managers. Labeling them as indolent, Jurgis declines to participate in labor union activities meant to alleviate the work intensity. Dede Antanas is offered employment, but the catch is he must relinquish one-third of his pay. Jurgis, confounded by this, confers with Tamoszius Kuszleika, a friend and fellow employee. Tamoszius reveals the pervasive corruption within Packingtown, where exploitation is common at every level. Progression is associated with becoming complicit in the corrupt system. Despite needing to yield part of his salary, Antanas accepts the position and informs the family he's involved in packing tainted meat for the public. Marija uncovers that she got her job due to the dismissal of a long-term worker. Jonas, on the other hand, stepped into his role after his predecessor succumbed due to hazardous work conditions. Jurgis observes the unhealthy practices where unfit meat, including dead animals and calf fetuses, are processed and packed along with the regular meat.

chapter 6

The elderly Lithuanian neighbor, Grandmother Majauszkiene, reveals to the family that their house, like many in the area, is a scam. She tells them that she and her son barely managed to keep up with payments to own their home, a feat most cannot achieve. She informs them that these houses, built over a decade and a half ago from substandard materials, are virtually impossible to purchase outright. A single missed payment for a Packingtown worker can lead to eviction and loss of all previous payments. The family is taken aback upon realizing they also have to pay interest on their debt, resulting in a near $20 monthly payment. Grandmother Majauszkiene migrated to Packingtown when most workers were German. Following the Germans, the Irish came, and now the Slovaks have replaced the Irish. The companies exploit and exhaust successive waves of immigrant workers. The house Ona, Jurgis, and their family currently occupy was attempted to be bought by four families before them, all of whom failed due to either an accident or illness impacting the main income earner. To secure a job sewing covers onto hams in a basement, Ona pays $10 to the forelady. The young Stanislovas fakes his age to land a job operating a lard-canning machine.

chapter 7

Ona and Jurgis find themselves over a hundred dollars in debt after their veselija. The unsanitary living conditions in Packingtown result in frequent illness among the family, yet none can afford to miss work for recovery. The arrival of winter exacerbates their problems, with harsh cold and snow rendering the area impassable. The companies fail to provide sufficient heating at work. Death sweeps through Packingtown during this season, taking the weak, hungry, and elderly including Dede Antanas. In the wake of this, thousands line up for the now-available work positions at the plants. Alcoholism becomes prevalent among many men drawn to the escape offered by whiskey and beer. Jurgis, however, resists these lures as he remains determined to protect Ona and their family from the horrors of homelessness and hunger.

chapter 8

Tamoszius, the musician, starts wooing Marija, bringing a spark of joy to the family with his violin. His talent makes him a favored guest, and he often includes Marija and the family in these events, providing a break from their harsh reality. He proposes to Marija, who says yes, and they plan to renovate the attic into their space. Suddenly, Marija's plant closes leading to her losing her job. Many others lose employment too during the winter slowdown. Even Jurgis finds his working hours reduced, intensifying their struggles since partial hours are unpaid. Faced with this, all the family's breadwinners join unions. Jurgis devotes himself to enlisting fellow Lithuanians, but their ignorance and disinterest frustrate him. Their naive belief in the American Dream echoes his own misplaced hopes upon his arrival in America.

chapter 9

Jurgis is a dedicated participant in union meetings and decides to master English through night school assisted by his kids. He becomes a U.S. citizen on the recommendation of a coworker. Without knowing it, he's guided to vote according to this man's instructions, receiving two dollars for his cooperation. It's only afterwards that he understands from his union friends that he's been used in a vote-buying scheme. Jurgis is introduced to Packingtown's dark secrets. He becomes aware of the rampant corruption spread by people like Mike Scully, a local politician. He learns about the disease and injury afflicting the workers. He discovers that dishonest meat companies are misleading consumers by selling tainted meat and stamping cans as “deviled ham” or “potted ham,” despite them containing random animal remnants.

chapter 10

Jurgis grills the agent who sold them the house about its hidden costs. The agent reveals that insurance costs seven dollars annually, taxes are ten dollars yearly, and they must pay six dollars per year for water. Additionally, if the city decides to implement a sewer and sidewalk, the cost would range between thirty-seven and forty-seven dollars. The arrival of spring brings cold rains and mud, and summer turns the factories into scorching ovens. Swarms of flies are drawn to Packingtown by the blood and meat. Marija manages to get her job back at the can painting factory, only to be laid off two months later for loudly objecting to wage theft. This is a huge blow to the family as Ona is pregnant with Jurgis’s baby. After a month, Marija secures a job as a beef trimmer, earning half of what a man would make due to her strength. Ona's boss, Miss Henderson, who is also the superintendent's spiteful ex-lover, operates a brothel, and her workers easily get jobs in Ona's department. She despises Ona for being a respectable married woman and her employees torment Ona. Ona gives birth to a healthy son named Antanas, after Jurgis's father. Overwhelmed by love for his son, Jurgis's dedication to family life increases, but his excessive work hours limit the time spent with his son. A week after childbirth, Ona resumes work, which severely affects her health.

chapter 11

Packingtown's workers are pushed to the limit, yet find their pay continually slashed. Marija starts a bank account for her earnings. However, she gets a scare when she thinks the bank is collapsing. She spends two days queuing to take out her cash. The reality is she was mistaken: a policeman was merely arresting an inebriated man nearby, drawing a crowd. The gathering made people think the bank was in trouble, prompting them to rush to remove their savings. Marija hides her money in her clothes and is now burdened with the weight, worried she might sink in the street's mud.

chapter 12

Jurgis injures his ankle and is unable to work for nearly a quarter of a year, causing him great distress. This often results in him lashing out at his family, with his baby son being the only source of happiness. Stanislovas experiences severe frostbite which damages the initial joints of his fingers. Jurgis is forced to discipline Stanislovas to encourage him to work in the snow. Jonas vanishes, compelling the family to make Nikalojus and Vilimas, Teta Elzbieta's youngest boys, work as newspaper vendors. Despite initial setbacks, the boys gradually master their new roles.

chapter 13

Teta Elzbieta's youngest, Kristoforas, passes away from consuming rotten meat. The family is struck with a strange sense of relief due to the boy's constant fussing and congenital disability that took a toll on everyone except Teta Elzbieta. Marija lends Teta Elzbieta funds for a proper funeral as Jurgis declines to pitch in. With the arrival of spring, Jurgis finds no luck in employment. Exhaustion hinders his appeal to potential employers, leading him to take up a lowly role at a fertilizer mill. The chemicals invade his skin, leaving him stinking as badly as the reek from the mill. Summer ushers in better times for the family. But as Vilimas and Nikalojus start picking up unwholesome habits from the streets, the family decides to re-enroll them in school. Meanwhile, Teta Elzbieta starts working at a sausage factory, while her 13-year-old daughter, Kotrina, caters to Antanas and Juozapas, her other disabled brother. The demanding work environment starts to take a toll on Teta Elzbieta's well-being as she's forced to stand and perform the same tiresome task for extended periods.

chapter 14

Jurgis's family is privy to the meat-packing industry's unscrupulous practices, including the conversion of rotten meats into sausage. The industry unashamedly markets adulterated and diseased meat to consumers. The gruelling poverty and hardship dampen the spirits of the working family members, causing them to retreat into silence. Jurgis and Ona's relationship deteriorates, and Jurgis finds solace in alcohol. He manages to fend off severe alcoholism through sheer determination, but the temptation to drink persists. The infant Antanas battles numerous diseases, with measles hitting him particularly hard. Despite his robust nature, he survives till his first birthday, sharing the malnourished state of the rest of Packingtown's impoverished residents. Ona, expecting another child, falls prey to a persistent cough and is plagued by frequent spells of uncontrollable weeping.

chapter 15

The harsh grip of winter returns, bringing the exhausting rush season with it. Long working hours of up to sixteen hours become the norm. Ona doesn't come home on two occasions, blaming the snow drifts for her absence and claiming she stayed at a friend's place. When Jurgis finds out she has been dishonest, he coaxes the truth from her. Through her tears, Ona reveals that Phil Connor, a supervisor at her factory, had been relentlessly pressuring her to be his lover. She confesses that Connor sexually assaulted her in the deserted factory and threatened her with the dismissal of her entire family. He also warned her that they would never find employment in Packingtown again. Under these threats, he coerced her into visiting Miss Henderson’s brothel with him in the evenings for the past two months. Infuriated, Jurgis heads to Ona’s place of work. Upon setting his sight on the distasteful and alcohol-stinking Connor, he attacks him, choking him with his bare hands. Jurgis is so consumed by his fury over the assault that he is oblivious to the ensuing chaos in the factory. It takes about six men to pull Jurgis, his teeth dripping with blood and skin, off the unconscious Connor and escort him to the police station.

chapter 16

Jurgis finds himself in prison sharing a room with a diverse group of detainees, from seasoned criminals to innocent individuals, all living in poor conditions. His trial date is set and his bail is fixed at three hundred dollars. He is then moved to the county jail, forced to undress, and paraded in the nude before the other inmates. His new cell is small, with a dirty, insect-ridden mattress. The sound of bells on Christmas Eve reminds him of the previous year's festivities, when he, Ona, and the kids admired the holiday window displays. Overcome by his current situation and Ona's sickness, he breaks down in tears, feeling that the Christmas bells are taunting him.

chapter 17

While waiting for his trial, Jurgis befriends a fellow inmate, Jack Duane. Jack, an educated ex-businessman who turned to crime after being swindled and experiencing personal misfortune, provides Jurgis with a contact outside of jail in case he needs assistance. The trial is a mockery. Both Kotrina and Teta Elzbieta witness Phil Connor lying about the circumstances of Ona's dismissal and Jurgis's assault. Despite Jurgis recounting his side through an interpreter, the judge does not show any favor and condemns Jurgis to a month in jail. Jurgis pleads for mercy citing his family's livelihood, but the judge refuses to reconsider. In Bridewell Prison, Jurgis spends most of his time breaking stones. He informs his family of his whereabouts through a postcard. Ten days later, Stanislovas brings dire news. All the family members, including him, have lost their jobs. They are unable to afford rent or food. Marija has contracted blood poisoning from a workplace injury, Ona is bedridden and constantly crying, Teta Elzbieta's sausage factory closed, and Stanislovas lost his job because of a snowstorm. Connor's machinations prevent them from securing new jobs. The family is struggling, their only income coming from selling newspapers and begging. They seek Jurgis's help, but he is helpless, having only fourteen cents to his name.

chapter 18

Jurgis spends an additional three days in jail due to his inability to cover his trial expenses. Upon his release, he returns to his home in Packingtown, only to find another family residing there. Grandmother Majauszkiene informs him that his family was evicted for failing to pay rent, and their house was sold within a week. She provides him with the location of their temporary residence, the boarding house they initially stayed in upon their arrival in Chicago. Feeling desolate, Jurgis heads towards the familiar boarding house, contemplating the unfair treatment he and his family have faced. As he reaches the door, he overhears Ona's agonizing screams, rushing inside the house to find her. Marija intercepts him as he prepares to climb the ladder to the attic, where Ona's painful shrieks are coming from. She reveals to him that Ona is prematurely delivering her baby. Overcome by the dreadful cries, Jurgis manages to scrape together some money from the widow and other women present, intending to find Ona some aid.

chapter 19

Jurgis pleads with Madame Haupt, a Dutch midwife, to help Ona despite his inability to afford her asked fee of twenty-five dollars. Eventually, she consents to assist for the meager amount Jurgis can provide. He’s sent away for the night by Marija and the widow, seeking refuge in a familiar saloon where he's offered food, drink, and a place to sleep. He returns to the boarding house early next morning to a grim scene - Madame Haupt, blood-splattered, informs him about the baby's death and Ona's critical condition. He rushes to Ona's side, only to find her in her final moments, with a priest beside her. After her demise, he confronts Kotrina about her whereabouts and learns she's been selling papers with the boys. He grabs three dollars from her and heads to a local bar to drown his sorrows.

chapter 20

Teta Elzbieta urges a clear-headed Jurgis to think of their son Antanas, prompting him to seek work. However, he soon discovers he's been ostracized in Packingtown, thanks to Phil Connor's influence. Despite this, Marija's hand is healing and she plans to return to work soon, while Teta Elzbieta might secure a job cleaning floors. After a fortnight of unsuccessful job hunting and minor tasks, Jurgis encounters a familiar face from his union. This man guides him to a factory that manufactures harvesting machines, where the boss hires Jurgis. The working environment is greatly improved and the factory embodies generosity and benevolence. Still, the work pace is relentlessly fast. With renewed optimism, Jurgis begins to study English at night and map out plans. A few days later, a factory notice reveals that Jurgis's department will be shuttered indefinitely.

chapter 21

The minor earnings of the children are the only things preventing the family from dire hunger, while Jurgis is jobless for over ten days. Teta Elzbieta's handicapped son, Juozapas, resorts to scavenging for food at the local garbage dump. An affluent woman runs into him there and inquires about his life. Learning about the family's sorrow and poverty, she decides to pay them a visit at their lodging place. Taken aback by their living conditions, she makes a decision to assist Jurgis in finding employment. As she's set to wed a steel mill superintendent, she pens a recommendation letter for Jurgis, which leads to him securing a job. The mill's distance from the lodging house makes it impossible for Jurgis to travel back every day, so he only goes home on weekends. He cherishes his son dearly. Listening to Antanas's first words fills Jurgis with immense joy. With the children's assistance, Jurgis starts reading the Sunday paper and adapts to a manageable routine. Yet one day, he returns to the lodging house to find out about a tragic accident: Antanas had drowned in the street's muddy slush.

chapter 22

Looking upon Antanas's lifeless body, Jurgis departs in silence. He finds refuge in a railway car and battles his grief throughout the trip. He sees his past experiences as a long, torturous dream. He disembarks in the countryside, reenergized by the open air and cleans himself in a nearby stream. Upon seeking food at a farmhouse, he is dismissed as a “tramp.” In retaliation, he destroys numerous young peach trees on the farmer’s land. Jurgis finds a more welcoming farmer who offers him food and shelter in return for work. However, the work is only guaranteed until November, prompting Jurgis to question if the farmer abandons his horses during winter too. The farmer doesn't understand why a strong man can't find city work in winter. Jurgis explains that overcrowding in the cities often leads laborers to theft and begging for survival. Jurgis rejects the work offer and ventures forth. Jurgis manages to scrape together a few meals by doing odd jobs, stealing, and foraging. He stops seeking farmer’s hospitality owing to their hostility. He feels liberated and learns survival tricks from other tramps. Farmers are desperate for workers during this season and he finds work easily. After a couple of weeks, he earns enough to splurge on alcohol and women. However, he later condemns himself for wasting his earnings.

chapter 23

Jurgis comes back to Chicago in the autumn as the temperature drops. He secures employment digging tunnels for train cargo. He doesn't realize that these tunnels are targeted at undermining the teamster's union's influence. Jurgis, believing his work will persist through the winter, squanders his earnings on alcohol. However, an unexpected accident results in a broken arm. He spends the festive season in the hospital. They discharge him after a fortnight, much to his chagrin, in the peak of winter. To keep warm, he joins other vagrants at a religious gathering. He harbors resentment for the preachers, believing they have no authority to discuss salvation of the soul, when men like him are struggling for a "decent existence for their bodies."

chapter 24

During a harsh winter, Jurgis struggles to find work and shelter amidst the destitute. One evening, he stumbles upon a heavily intoxicated man named Freddie Jones, who is elegantly clothed. Freddie invites Jurgis to his opulent mansion for a meal and pays for their cab ride. He even gives Jurgis a hundred-dollar bill, instructing him to keep the change. Jurgis recognizes from Freddie's inebriated chatter that his host is the son of the owner of the packing factory where he once worked. Freddie provides Jurgis a generous meal, disregarding the apparent disapproval of his butler, Hamilton. After Freddie falls asleep, Hamilton commands Jurgis to leave and attempts to frisk him. However, Jurgis stands his ground, threatening to fight if Hamilton touches him.

chapter 25

Jurgis learns he can't exchange a hundred-dollar bill without drawing attention or getting stolen from. He attempts to do so in a bar, is told he must purchase a drink first, and is given ninety-five cents back for his hundred-dollar note. Feeling cheated, he violently confronts the bartender and ends up in jail, with the judge dismissing his side of the story and sentencing him to ten days in prison. During his time in jail, he reunites with Jack Duane. Deciding that a life of crime is his only option, he agrees to meet Duane after his release. They start off by mugging a well-dressed man, with Jurgis earning fifty-five dollars. He learns from a newspaper that their victim almost froze to death and will lose three fingers due to frostbite. Over time, he grows indifferent to his victims' ordeals. With Duane's introduction, Jurgis becomes familiar with Chicago's criminal scene. During a burglary, Duane is caught red-handed. He manages to escape thanks to a corrupt cop, but this event creates enough uproar that his partners decide to abandon him, forcing him to leave Chicago. Meanwhile, Jurgis comes into contact with Harper, a vote-buyer, and Mike Scully, a corrupt politician. Scully offers Jurgis a job and asks him to join a union, planning to use him to support a Republican candidate. Jurgis secures employment as a hog trimmer, getting paid regularly plus being involved in political corruption. He works hard for the Republican candidate and helps immigrant workers vote in droves. The candidate gets elected, and Jurgis earns 300 dollars. He splurges on a drinking spree while the town celebrates the political triumph.

chapter 26

Jurgis continues working as a hog trimmer, but conflict arises between the unions and packers, leading to a large scale strike. Scully publicly condemns the packers, prompting Jurgis to request alternate employment while he participates in the strike. Scully advises him to act as a strikebreaker and maximize his earnings. Jurgis insists on and receives a daily wage of three dollars. The packers employ city thugs and bring in strikebreakers from across America, with a considerable number being African-Americans from the south. Jurgis is promoted to supervisor on the slaughter beds as the packers feel the urgency to continue supplying fresh meat to avoid public backlash. Jurgis benefits from a pay raise and a guarantee of retaining his job post-strike. However, the packers are under public pressure to reach a settlement with the union. They agree but break their promise not to discriminate against union leaders, causing the workers to resume the strike. In the ensuing chaos, Jurgis stumbles upon Phil Connor in Packingtown and violently assaults him without thought. From his jail cell, Jurgis contacts Harper only to learn that Connor is favored by Scully. Harper is unable to provide any assistance beyond getting Jurgis' bail reduced. He suggests that Jurgis should leave town. After paying his bail, Jurgis, left with less than four dollars, decides to move to a different part of Chicago.

chapter 27

As his desperation peaks, Jurgis resorts to begging for work but the end of a strike only increases competition for jobs. His lifestyle had improved when he had money, and living on the streets is even harder now. He manages to secure a job but loses it as he's too weak for the tasks. As winter and election season arrive, he observes the ongoing corruption from the sidelines, unable to participate. Attending a political gathering for warmth, he's ejected by a policeman for sleeping and snoring aloud. In need of funds for a night's accommodation, Jurgis crosses paths with a woman from his early Packingtown days, now elegantly dressed. She doesn't have cash but gives him Marija's location, encouraging him to reconnect with Marija and Teta Elzbieta. When he arrives at the address, a police raid reveals the place to be a brothel. Before being sent off to the police station, Jurgis manages to converse briefly with Marija. She explains that legitimate work couldn't support the children, and tragically, Stanislovas was killed by rats at an oil factory. Turning to prostitution was Marija's desperate attempt to keep the family from starving. They never blamed Jurgis for leaving, she says, and understand he did all he could. The nightmarish revelations of Marija's degradation and Stanislovas's death torment Jurgis as he spends the night in jail.

chapter 28

Marija's penalty is covered by the brothel owner, freeing her and the other women. Jurgis avoids punishment by claiming he was only visiting his sister and giving a false name, keeping his past assault on Phil Connor a secret. Marija reveals her addiction to morphine, a common situation for the women there due to kidnapping, forced labor, and manipulated debts and addiction by the brothel owner. Jurgis is given Teta Elzbieta's address by Marija, encouraging him to live with her and her kids. However, Jurgis plans to find a job before seeing her, still feeling remorse for abandoning them after Antanas's death. After failing to find work, Jurgis stumbles upon a political gathering. He enters, worried about Teta Elzbieta's reaction to his return and fear of being perceived as a freeloader. He starts to doze off during the speech, but a well-dressed woman urges him to pay attention, calling him a "comrade." Despite his drowsiness, no one tries to eject him. The gathering turns out to be a socialist meeting. The speaker talks about the harsh conditions for regular workers and the shady tactics of wealthy capitalists. Jurgis feels seen and validated by the speaker's words. His grievances and experiences are acknowledged, leading him to a moment of joy and liberation. He realizes that he has come across a political party that seeks to serve his interests rather than those of the rich and powerful.

chapter 29

Following the gathering, Jurgis approaches the speaker for more insight on the party's beliefs, who then directs him to a socialist named Ostrinski who speaks their native tongue. At Ostrinski's home, they discuss their struggles to survive. Ostrinski details how wage-earners are stuck selling their labor and are unable to secure a price beyond what the most desperate worker will accept. He educates Jurgis on the two economic groups: the affluent, few capitalists and the numerous, struggling proletariat. He states that the small number of capitalists can easily collaborate for their benefit, unlike the large, uninformed proletariat. Ostrinski emphasizes the need for workers to obtain “class consciousness” to organize and protect their interests, thereby escaping ruthless wage competition. He describes the present system as “wage slavery.” Despite being hailed as a land of freedom, America’s political liberty doesn’t relieve the harsh realities of wage slavery, according to Ostrinski. He further elaborates that socialism cannot be successful in a single nation, but rather needs to be a global movement; otherwise, any success will be overwhelmed by surrounding nations. Ostrinski dubs socialism the “new religion” of humanity, suggesting that it also embodies Christian values.

chapter 30

Jurgis talks to Teta Elzbieta about his new interest in socialism, and she's pleased that he wants to work and contribute to their family's needs. She even accepts his invitation to come with him to socialist gatherings occasionally. He gets employed as a porter at a small hotel, earning thirty dollars monthly and board. Jurgis learns from Ostrinski that his new employer, Tommy Hinds, is a state representative for the socialist party and well-regarded speaker for the cause. Hinds is thrilled to find out Jurgis is a fellow socialist. He constantly discusses socialism at his hotel and other places, attracting socialists and not damaging his business. Hind often encourages Jurgis to share the horrifying conditions and actual recipes of the meat-packing industry he used to work at. Passionately, Jurgis dives into the socialist movement. He tries to read newspapers, such as The Appeal to Reason, to educate himself about America's political and economic power structures. However, he becomes upset when he fails to convince others to embrace socialism.

chapter 31

Jurgis tries to convince Marija to quit being a sex worker, but she confesses her morphine addiction and expresses her intention to continue in the profession. He later takes part in a discussion with a magazine editor who, despite his opposition to socialism, is willing to hear arguments from its supporters. Jurgis describes the unsanitary environment in which meat is packaged and sold. Nicholas Schliemann, a staunch socialist, asserts the need for public control of production resources. With scientific advancement and corruption removal, he argues, no worker would need to toil endlessly, only having to work as little as two hours each day while focusing on personal activities. Socialism's main objectives are the “common ownership and democratic management of the means of producing the necessities of life.” The strategy to achieve this revolution is to boost the proletariat's class awareness worldwide via political organization. Subsequently, the socialist party experiences incredible electoral victories nationwide. A passionate speaker at a political gathering urges the socialists to keep pressing on, as their triumph isn't yet complete, motivating them, “Chicago will be ours!”

Enjoying this summary?
Buy the book! (it's better)