The Jungle | Study Guide

Upton Sinclair

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The Jungle | Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

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.

Analysis

Chapter by chapter, deprivation whittles away at the family and its humanity. The narrator insists that the family is "not living; it was scarcely even existing." Sinclair's discussions of the family's misfortune support his message about the exploitation of workers. His personal beliefs intertwine with the narration, particularly when he appeals directly to readers: "when people did their best, ought they not be able to keep alive?"

This chapter also touches on another level of hardship workers endure. Not only was financial corruption commonplace in the factories, the workers were also mistreated by their fellow co-workers. Whenever one was lucky enough to be promoted to a position of power, they wielded that power for their own benefit. Ona's forewoman—who had previously been a prostitute—is not sympathetic to Ona's situation. Rather than giving Ona time off to recuperate after her delivery, the boss insists that Ona return to her job almost immediately and provide "gifts" to keep it. The workers are so beaten-down and desperate that they turn on each other, losing their humanity and truly behaving like animals.

A new hope, baby Antanas, is born in this chapter, leaving readers to wonder what tragedy will follow: happiness doesn't last long in Packingtown. There is major foreshadowing when, after Ona returns to work, the narrator states that she was "never again a well person as long as she lived." Sinclair uses every member of the family to represent larger groups of exploited workers. Ona's medical complications, or "womb trouble," are not singular to her character. She stands for all working women who experience medical complications after being forced back to work too soon after giving birth.

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