Literature Study GuidesThe JungleChapters 29 31 Summary

The Jungle | Study Guide

Upton Sinclair

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The Jungle | Chapters 29–31 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 29

Jurgis's reality comes crashing back when the speaker finishes and others take their turn. No one captures his imagination in the same way, but socialism has him hooked. After the speech he approaches the speaker and requests to learn more about socialism and how he can help its expansion. The speaker introduces Jurgis to Ostrinksi, who takes Jurgis home with him. Ostrinksi is an impoverished tailor debilitated by a handicap. He and his family live in squalor and struggle to make ends meet, but he is passionately optimistic about the possibilities socialism could create. His passion is infectious and Jurgis leaves their meeting determined to further the cause.

Chapter 30

Emboldened by the socialist meeting and his conversations with Ostrinksi, Jurgis bounds to Elzbieta's home where he is joyfully welcomed. Elzbieta is not interested in socialism, but she pretends to support the cause since it has made Jurgis so happy. She hopes the cause will keep him away from alcohol and make him a productive member of their family once more. By chance one afternoon, Jurgis stumbles upon a hotel and asks for a job. The owner, a fellow socialist, quickly takes him on board as a porter, giving him a fair wage and board. The hotel owner often calls on Jurgis to recount his horror stories of working in the meatpacking plant to garner sympathy among the hotel's guests. Jurgis doesn't mind being used this way. He is feverishly dedicated to the cause, and even begins distributing pamphlets around the factories in Packingtown. He encourages other workers to undermine Scully and his corrupt politicians by voting socialist.

Chapter 31

Now that he is making a fair wage again, Jurgis tries to convince Marija to leave the brothel. She refuses, saying that there is nothing for her to do. She is addicted to drugs and cannot escape her past. She intends to die here because there is nowhere else for her. Disappointed, Jurgis says goodbye. Although happy to be back, Jurgis struggles to reconnect with his old family, whom he now finds needy and annoying. The only happiness in his life is found through his socialist work, which he supports wholeheartedly. The novel ends with a lengthy discussion among various intellects at a dinner party Jurgis has been invited to. They argue politics and religion and give long summaries of socialist theories. Soon after this dinner party, the election is held. More socialists vote in Chicago than ever before, which Jurgis finds deeply encouraging. During a speech after the election, the socialists, resolved to continue their mission, chant, "Chicago will be ours!"

Analysis

The novel ends with a clear political message: socialism is cure for the evils of capitalism. The Jungle has been widely criticized for its ending, as Sinclair basically abandons his characters and their struggles to promote his political ideals. Indeed the final chapter of the novel, which follows intellectuals summarizing their political theories, seems plucked from a different novel. Jurgis, who has been the central character throughout the novel is suddenly stagnant in scenes, functioning as a "fly-on-the-wall" listening to prominent speakers discuss their beliefs. He does very little in these final chapters aside from reunite with his family. Even so the family are hardly given mention except to suggest that they are annoying or "lost" because they don't support socialism.

Scholars have also critiqued how quickly Jurgis's life turns around as soon as he dedicates himself to socialism. While chance has always played a role in determining Jurgis's fate, the amount of "luck" involved in finding a well-paying job with "the best boss in Chicago" that values him as an individual and allows him to further his political education is one step too far for many readers. After so many years of struggle and determination to survive, that his entire life could be changed (for the better) by a chance meeting feels contrived. Yet Sinclair did not set out to write a novel about character growth and change. His primary goal from the outset was to highlight the plight of the working poor and promote the values of socialism. His message is obvious: serving the self may provide temporary relief, as Jurgis's criminal life proves, but true success should be measured in the gains of an entire class. When workers complain about the struggles in their lives, "disciples" like Jurgis respond, "You know what to do about it—vote the Socialist ticket!" For Jurgis, and for Sinclair, socialism is the only cure for society's struggles, which the novel argues are all caused by the evils of capitalism.

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