Course Hero. "The Jungle Study Guide." Course Hero. 25 Aug. 2016. Web. 29 Sep. 2023. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Jungle/>.
Course Hero. (2016, August 25). The Jungle Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 29, 2023, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Jungle/
(Course Hero, 2016)
Course Hero. "The Jungle Study Guide." August 25, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Jungle/.
Course Hero, "The Jungle Study Guide," August 25, 2016, accessed September 29, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Jungle/.
Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 4 of Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle.
Jonas happily begins his new job at the meatpacking plant. His job is to use a heavy broom to sweep the "smoking entrails" from the cows into a large trap in the floor. It is exhausting work and the stench is "overwhelming," but Jonas is thrilled to earn a pay check. The rest of the family has found work as well, with Jonas using the policeman's connections, and Marija determinedly knocking on every door in Packingtown until she secures a job painting meat tins.
Feeling optimistic the family decides to buy a house after seeing one advertised on a poster. Even though no one has owned real estate before, they figure a house payment makes more financial sense than paying rent each month. The house costs $1,500 but only $300 is needed as a down-payment, with monthly payments of $12 to follow. On his first day at the factory, Jurgis earns $1.57, and feels sure that he can manage the house payment on his own. With so many other members of the family also working, they believe they will be able to support themselves. When they tour the house, however, it does not seem as new as the posters described, yet they decide to buy it anyway. Jurgis takes it on himself to consult with a lawyer to see if the contract is any good. He spends precious cash to get this legal opinion, which verifies that contract is solid. After some initial confusion with the paperwork, the family hands over what remains of its savings.
After only one day in the factory, Jurgis believes he has attained the American Dream. Naïve and optimistic, the family decides to buy a house, spending what little remains of their life's savings. Their decision seems financially astute—their mortgage is only $3 more per month than their rent—but their jobs are not nearly as secure as the family would hope. When the decision is made, Jurgis looks around and wonders why "so many of the people of the district should live the way they did." Jurgis believes that his hard work will forever be rewarded, and that the impoverished people in Packingtown must be lazy or else they would own homes of their own. He even vows to work hard enough and make enough money that neither Ona nor the children should ever have to get jobs. There are many warning signs regarding Jurgis's naïvety, such as the fact that Szedvilas's children must work (even though Szedvilas is believed to be successful).
Part of the family's vulnerability stems from their ingrained, "old world" beliefs about class. Because they are not accustomed to challenging anyone who appears to be from the professional classes, they are afraid to question the state of the house. For example, it needs more work than the posters illustrated, yet during the tour they don't challenge the agent, believing it would have "seemed ungrateful to find any fault, and so they ... shut their eyes to other defects." The naïve family still doesn't realize that everyone in Packingtown is out to line their pockets, and that no one—from the advertisers, to the real estate agents, to the lawyers, can be trusted. One of the horrors of Packingtown is that many collude to strip newcomers of every last dime.