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Free Study Guide-The Jungle by Upton Sinclair-Free Book Summary Notes
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CHAPTER 14

Summary

The family discovers further details of Packingtown swindles first hand. Marija, the beef trimmer, has learned about the rackets in beef and Jonas knew every dirty trick and "miracle of chemistry" used in the pickle rooms to disguise spoiled meat. But Elzbieta's experiences in the sausage factory are by far the worst. Scraps of rotten meat rejected everywhere else find their way into the sausages. So do poisoned rats, rat dung, poisoned bread, spit, consumption germs and the contents of the sausage room waste barrels.

Ona is anguished by the memories of her shattered dreams and the insensitive treatment she receives from Jurgis. She is going to pieces and comes home at night shuddering and moaning. Ona is also expecting again. Jurgis, however, is unable to understand or give her emotional support. He is tortured by his own thoughts and takes refuge in drink.


Notes

The drifting apart of Ona and Jurgis is well-captured in this chapter. Since her crying makes Jurgis angry, Ona learns to weep silently. While Ona weeps, Jurgis drowns his sorrows in drink. Liquor puts him on an emotional see-saw. When drunk, he is a "man again, master of his life," but once he is sober, he is overcome with despair and shame because he is turning into a drunk. Jurgis does not realize that this battle with drink is an endless one. At one stage, he even begins to wish that Ona would begin drinking, so that they may drink together and escape the horror. At times, he even hates his family for keeping him away from drink. The other men in Packingtown find solace only in drinking, in the memory of the last time they were drunk and the hope of the next time they will be drunk.

The brutalizing work gives the workers one gift, the gift of insensibility. But they still feel; "the souls of none of them were dead, but only sleeping." In coming to America they had "dreamed of freedom; of a chance to look about them and learn something; to be decent and clean, to see their child grow up to be strong," but Packingtown gives them nothing but sorrow; it is an "ocean waste", a "wilderness," a "desert," a "tomb."

The other heart rending thing in this chapter the inhuman way in which the family is forced to care for the children. Antanas, who is down with measles, is tied to the bed so he may not kick off the covers and screams for hours at night. Yet, says Sinclair, he is the most fortunate because he is able to bear his sufferings.

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