The family knows all the dirty secrets of the meat-packing industry. The mostspoiled of meats becomes sausage. All manner of dishonesty exists in the sellingdiseased, rotten, and adulterated meat to American households.
The workingmembers of the family fall into a silent stupor due to the grinding poverty andmisery of their lives. Ona and Jurgis grow apart. Jurgis begins to drinkheavily. He delivers himself from full-blown alcoholism through force of will,but the desire to drink always torments him.
Antanas suffers all manner ofchildhood illnesses, but the measles attacks him with fury. However, he reacheshis first birthday owing to his strong constitution despite the privations underwhich his family suffers. He is perpetually malnourished like the rest ofPackingtown. Ona, pregnant again, develops a bad cough and suffers increasinglyfrequent bouts of hysterical crying.
Winter arrives again, and with it comes thegrueling rush season. Fifteen and sixteen hour workdays are frequent. Twice, Onadoes not return home at night. She explains that the snow drifts kept her away,so she stayed with a friend. Jurgis discovers that she lied about staying withher friend. He wrangles a confession out of her.
Sobbing hysterically, Onaconfesses that, Connor, a boss at her factory continually harassed her andpleaded with her to become his mistress. Eventually, he raped her in the factoryafter everyone had gone home. He threatened to arrange the firings of every wageearner in her household. Moreover, he threatened to prevent them from obtainingwork in Packingtown ever again. With these threats, he forced her intoaccompanying him to Miss Henderson’s brothel in the evenings for the past twomonths. The recent snowstorms prevented Ona from returning home twice.
Jurgisstorms to Ona’s workplace. It takes more than a half dozen men subdue him beforehe can choke the life out of Connor. Jurgis is arrested and taken to jail whereold men and boys, hardened criminals and petty criminals, innocent men andguilty men share the same squalid quarters. Jurgis’s trial date is set, and hisbond is three hundred dollars. Jurgis spends the Christmas holidays in jail,worrying about his family. While Jurgis awaits his trial, he becomes friendswith his cell mate, Jack Duane.
Jack claims to be an educated man from the East. His father committed suicide after his business failed. Jack claims that a bigcompany later cheated him out of a lucrative invention. After his misfortunes,Jack became a safe-breaker. Before his trial, Jack gives Jurgis his mistress’saddress and encourages him to seek his help should the need arise.
Jurgis’strial is a farce. Kotrina and Teta Elzbieta attend it. Connor and severalwitnesses testify that Conner fired Ona fairly, and Jurgis attacked him forrevenge. Jurgis tells his side of the story through an interpreter, but thejudge is not sympathetic. He sentences Jurgis to thirty days in prison.
Jurgisbegs for clemency because his family will starve, but the judge remains firm. InBridewell, Jurgis and the other prisoners spend the greater portion of theirtime breaking stone. He writes a postcard to his family to let them know wherehe is. Ten days later Stanislovas visits to tell him that he, Ona, Marija, andTeta Elzbieta have all lost their jobs.
They are unable to pay rent or buy food. Marija is suffering blood poisoning because she cut her hand at work. Ona liesin bed, crying all day. Teta Elzbieta’s sausage factory shut down.
Stanislovaslost his job after a snowstorm prevented him from going to work for three days. No one can obtain other jobs because they are too sick and weak and becauseConner is scheming to prevent them. Stanislovas asks if Jurgis can help them. Jurgis has no more than fourteen cents to give.
Kotrina, Stanislovas, and thechildren earn money selling papers. Their only other income comes throughbegging. Commentary Packingtown is full of predators. Connor, empowered throughhis criminal connections, violates the marriage bond between Jurgis and Ona. Noindividual really has the power to fight for themselves.
Marija tried to fightfor her full wages only to be fired. Ona cannot afford to reject Connor’sadvances because he has the power to ruin her family. The wage laborer issystematically crippled and silenced by the power structure enabled bycapitalism. Jurgis’s attack on Connor would be perfectly justified according tothe values of the American reading public.
A man has violated his wife againsther will. However, judges are bought and sold by men with power and money, soJurgis spends thirty-three days in jail for his attack. Sinclair clearly meansto charge capitalism with perverting the American justice system. The judgecares little that his ruling means the difference between starvation andsecurity, albeit precarious, for an entire family. Sinclair also chargescapitalism with being anti- Christian.
Christianity was and still is a strongsocial force in American culture. Jurgis spends the Christmas holidays separatedfrom his family. Moreover, his time in jail leads to their eviction from theirhome. Sinclair means to portray capitalism as a threat to fundamental Americanvalues again. The family suffers a slew of misfortunes following Jurgis’simprisonment.
This clearly marks the family’s inevitable descent into run. Despite all of their best efforts to provide greater opportunities to the nextgeneration, no sacrifice by the older one is enough. The odds are stacked toohigh against them. All of the able- bodied children have to work after Jurgis’simprisonment.
Even that provides them with barely enough income to survive. Marija has suffered an injury that may eventually require the amputation of herhand. Stanislovas’s hands are already damaged by frostbite. Everywhere inPackingtown, there are wage laborers who suffer from some form of permanentdisfigurement directly and indirectly related to their work.
In a sense, theprevalence of these disfiguring injuries is a metaphor for butchery of humanbodies. Human beings are butchered in the service of profit-making as well asthe animals. Hard work, family values, self-reliance, and self- motivated actiondo absolutely nothing to provide the means for social advancement. The wagelaborers that populate The Jungle are moved inevitably towards ruin and abuse byforces beyond their control. Capitalism is a forces as inevitable and carelessas nature.
It picks off unfortunate individuals as carelessly as cold weather,disease, and heat exhaustion.