The Jungle | Study Guide

Upton Sinclair

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Chapter 3

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 3 of Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle.

The Jungle | Chapter 3 | Summary



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.


The symbolic parallels between immigrants like Jurgis and the slaughtered animals are clear. Sinclair uses personification to compare the animals to humans. Doing so highlights the brutality of butchering 25,000 animals a day. Lines describing the animals as "innocent" and "trusting" draw clear parallels to Jurgis, who despite the horrors he has just seen, cannot wait to start his new job, not realizing that it will all but destroy him. The hogs are killed by a machine that does "its cruel will with him, as if his wishes, his feelings had simply no existence." In descriptions like this, Sinclair uses the slaughterhouse as a symbol for capitalism, which "cuts the throat" of hardworking immigrants like Jurgis as heartlessly as the hog-slaughtering machine. While watching the slaughter, Jurgis ironically jokes, "I'm glad I'm not a hog!" Jurgis's character is developed here by his ability to confront the horror of the slaughterhouse, while remaining optimistic about his ability to overcome whatever trials come his way.

The slaughterhouse tour reveals the light hand of government regulation at work. When the federal meat inspector is engaged in conversation, he allows several meat carcasses to slide past him even though they haven't been inspected for tuberculosis. The entire tour reminds readers that capitalism is a vast machine—products from this one factory reach to the farthest corners of the country, suggesting the difficulty of dismantling this complicated web.

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