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The Jungle | Study Guide

Upton Sinclair

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Chapter 18

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 18 of Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle.

The Jungle | Chapter 18 | Summary



Released from prison, Jurgis has only the clothes on his back. It is raining and the streets are full of slush, but Jurgis is excited to be reunited with his family, whom he has spent his entire incarceration worrying about. After getting turned around during his walk home, Jurgis finally reaches home but is confused to see that his house has been repainted. As he rushes toward the front door, an Irish boy he doesn't recognize emerges. Jurgis confronts him, but the boy insists that he lives here. His mother comes out and confirms that they've just moved into the new house (and that no one had previously lived there—it was all brand new!) Jurgis soon learns that his family has been evicted and has returned to Aniele's boarding house. Jurgis is devastated, but sets off immediately for Aniele's, where he finds Ona in premature labor. The baby is stuck, but the family has no money for a doctor. Jurgis frantically begs neighbors for money to entice the local midwife to attend to her. He is able to scrounge up $1.25 before rushing out the door.


As soon as Jurgis is released from jail, the crippling devastations of his impoverished life hit him full force. With the loss of its home, the family is worse off than when it arrived because family members have died and there are no savings. It is a devastating, depressing realization for Jurgis: "it was as if his family had been wiped out of existence." Jurgis compares himself now, emaciated, weak, and soaked through with frozen rain, to the strong, optimistic, determined man he had been when he arrived, and he concludes that "the law was against them, the whole machinery of society was at their oppressor's command!" Sinclair makes it clear that Jurgis fully comprehends the truth about capitalism; all that remains is for him to discover socialism. As Sinclair himself once said, "the principal fact the Socialists had to teach was they ... existed." He believed that socialism was the answer all workers would eventually turn to.

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