The Jungle | Study Guide

Upton Sinclair

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The Jungle | Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

Despite the brutal winter, Marija finds happiness when she falls in love with Tamoszius Kuszleika, the fiddle player from Jurgis and Ona's wedding. The couple saves their money and hopes to get married in the spring, but Marija is devastated when her canning factory closes after the Christmas rush. None of the workers were given notice, and with hundreds of women competing for the few jobs available in Packingtown, Marija is unable to find new work. Everyone else feels the effects of the production slump as well. Jurgis is forced to spend his entire day at the factory, but often works only a few hours and is only paid for the time he is actually working. Feeling desperate, Jurgis relents and joins the union. Soon, his entire family proudly wears their union buttons and Jurgis is like a religious disciple, proclaiming the benefits of unionizing to those who hold out against it.

Analysis

Jurgis has come to realize simply being willing to "work harder" will not grant him the American Dream. While he had previously thought unionized workers were lazy, he sees now how the factories exploit hardworking men like him and prevent them from succeeding. He will be fired from the killing beds if he shows up late, but the factories often don't start killing until 4 or 5 o'clock in the afternoon, when the sales happen. As a result, Jurgis is forced to spend hours in a freezing factory without wages or food. When the work does happen, it's at the same frantic "speeding-up" pace. Men are only paid for complete hours of labor, so they are paid the same if work takes one hour to complete or one hour and 59 minutes. Jurgis realizes that no matter how hard he works, the companies are bigger than he is and will always exploit their advantage. If he bands with the rest of the workers, however, they may have the power to elicit change to some of these exploitative policies. The enthusiasm with which he embraces the union's message foreshadows his later devotion to socialism.

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