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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
Barring a brief flashback to rural Lithuania, from where the main characters of the novel hail, The Jungle is set in Chicago's Packingtown, a busy industrial area that houses the city's large slaughtering and meat packaging industry. Locals refer to the place as the "stockyards." Travelling from distant Lithuania, the hero and heroine of this novel, Jurgis Rudkus and Ona Lukoszaite, accompanied by their families, reach Packingtown with the cherished dream of making their fortunes. Sleazy, smoky, ruthless Packingtown, dominated by its cannibalistic industrial machine, is central to the tragedy that befalls Jurgis, Ona and their family.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
Young, strong, and optimistic, he believes that his combination of physical strength and willingness to work endlessly can overcome all odds. His chief aim is to prove himself capable of marrying his love, Ona, and ensure a decent life for her family and his aged and ailing father.
Both physically and emotionally delicate, Ona, Jurgis' seventeen-year-old sweetheart and later wife, is thoroughly ill-prepared for the rigors of life in Packingtown. She is a complete contrast to Jurgis in every sense.
Elzbieta Lukoszaite (Teta Elzbieta)
Old, yet blessed with great reserves of strength, Ona's loving stepmother tries hard to build the semblance of a home in a hostile foreign land. She helplessly watches as the monstrous Packingtown machine pushes her family from one inevitable catastrophe to another.
Ona's orphaned cousin bubbles with a tempestuous energy. Her booming voice, strong manly arms and uninhibited manners paint her as a commanding figure. Capable of fighting back and also adapting herself to new situations, Marija is a survivor.
Elzbieta's brother, presumably a bachelor, is described by Sinclair as "a dried-up little man." When Ona's father dies, leaving the family in a financial shambles, it is Jonas who suggests migrating from Lithuania to America, where a friend of his had supposedly gotten rich.
Antanas Rudkus (Dede Antanas)
Proud and dignified, Jurgis' sixty-year-old father looks twenty years older. He insists on taking up a job to share the family's financial burden. His already diseased body is fatally affected by work in the stockyards' pickling plants.
Stanislovas, Kotrina, Vilimas, Nikalojus, Juozapas, Kristoforas
- Elzbieta's children, whom Jurgis dreams of educating. The eldest, Stanislovas, works canning lard, Kotrina, the only girl, slaves in the house, Nikalojus and Juozapas sell newspapers, and the last two children are crippled.
Jurgis and Ona's only offspring. When he dies in an accident, Jurgis abandons the family.
A spirited violinist who first makes his entry in the novel as head of the three-man orchestra at Jurgis and Ona's wedding celebration. He later falls in love with Marija.
His is the "success story" that inspires Jonas to suggest migrating to America. In reality, he is struggling to keep a sinking delicatessen afloat. Generous to a fault and knowledgeable about the ways of Packingtown, Jokubas and his wife are a lifeline for the family of immigrants.
The Widow Jukniene (Poni Aniele)
She runs an abominably filthy and overcrowded boarding house where Jurgis and his family stay off and on. The old lady and her three children barely manage to stave off starvation.
An Irish politician from the Democratic party who controls the stockyard district.
The foreman of a loading gang where Ona works. Connor, who has powerful political friends, rapes Ona and makes her his mistress.
Ona's cruel forelady, who runs a prostitution racket from her downtown home.
A suave, college-educated safecracker who introduces Jurgis to underworld activity.
A knowledgeable Lithuanian neighbor and Socialist. She is a prophet of doom for the family.
The Settlement Worker
A rich lady who is moved by the family's plight and secures Jurgis a job in a steel mill.
An obese Dutch midwife who oversees Ona's tragic second delivery.
The drunk and big-hearted son of the packer Jones, with whom Jurgis spends some adventurous hours.
An Irish lieutenant of Scully.
Scully's trusted right-hand man.
The Socialist Orator
This unnamed speaker gives a speech that changes Jurgis' life.
A Polish Socialist and pants finisher by profession, who takes Jurgis under his wing and explains to him the tenets of Socialism.
A Socialist hotel owner with whom Jurgis finds employment, quite by chance.
A travelling missionary who becomes a Socialist propagandist.
A Socialist thinker who was earlier a Swedish university professor.