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Free Study Guide-The Jungle by Upton Sinclair-Free Book Summary Notes
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CHAPTERS 25 - 26

Summary (continued)

Jurgis is shocked because Scully's public stance has been to criticize the packers: He does not realize that Scully is in their service. Jurgis returns to Durham's and is given the raise he demands for going back to work. Policemen throng the yards to protect the strike-breakers from harm. One evening, when Jurgis and some of his friends leave the yards for a drink, they are surrounded by a group of striking workers. All the men escape practically unharmed, but the press sensationalizes the incident.

The packers know that if the meat supply slows down, public opinion might turn against them. They therefore bring in criminals, thugs, "the lowest foreigners" and blacks recruited from the south to work. Jurgis is offered the job of a boss on the killing beds and has a hard time getting his rag-tag band of men to work. Soon, he gives up trying entirely, and begins accepting graft from men who have conspired to "work" at more than one place in a day. In this environment, it is an achievement for the packers to get just the sick or injured animals slaughtered and dressed, even though new supplies of "workmen" pour in daily.

Demoralized, the packers agree to arbitration proceedings. After the agreement is signed, the packers refuse to hire union leaders, however, and the strike begins once again. The packers make living arrangements for their new workforce in the yards, despite legislation to the contrary. Filth, violence, drunkenness and prostitution abound. Women workers are also brought in and housed in these filthy conditions. Jurgis tries to lose himself in liquor.

A crisis occurs when the strikers grab a runaway steer and butcher it. Jurgis and his men along with the police are sent to capture the steer and beat up the guilty. A brawl ensues and Jurgis and some policemen use the opportunity to rob a saloon. Later, Jurgis picks up a woman and stumbles upon Connor in the brothel. Jurgis, enraged, attempts to murder Connor, and has to be beaten senseless by the police in order to stop him.

Jurgis is taken to the stockyards station house and sends word to Bush Harper seeking his assistance. When Harper learns that the man Jurgis attacked is Connor, however, he refuses to help him. Connor, he informs him, is politically powerful and very close to Scully. Finally, Harper offers to try to have Jurgis' bail reduced and suggests that he skip town as soon as possible. Jurgis turns over his bank book to Harper, who arranges with the judge for his release. Needless to say, it is Harper who will use the money. Jurgis is let out of jail practically penniless and heads for the far end of the city.


Jurgis begins to learn of the web of graft that links the saloon owners, the police and the judiciary. The meeting with Duane in prison indicates what direction Jurgis' life will now take. Despite being in the process of becoming a hardened criminal, Jurgis' conscience is troubled by the report of his victim's injuries. It is this flickering remnant of conscience that will rescue Jurgis from the depths later in the novel.

Ironically, Jurgis is unable to prove his innocence in court on the two occasions when he is innocent. On his third time in court, when Jurgis is guilty, he gets away scot-free, thanks to the intervention of his political friend Halloran.

The Socialist Party is introduced as a political force in this chapter. Both the Republicans and the Democrats fear and distrust it and are willing to work together to prevent it from having even a minor victory. Through Scully's manipulations, Sinclair sharply illuminates the cynical dishonesty of both parties and their subversion of the democratic machinery. Jurgis comes across as a stupid tool in the political games of the bigwigs -- he is only too happy to be used by them, and does not realize that they are responsible for his miseries. Although Jurgis considers Scully a friend, the stockyard boss is instrumental in ruining Jurgis' life. "It was Scully who was to blame for the unpaved street in which Jurgis' child had been drowned; it was Scully who had put into office the magistrate who had first sent Jurgis to jail; it was Scully who was principal stockholder in the company which had sold him the ramshackle tenement, and then robbed him of it. But Jurgis knew none of these things-any more than he knew that Scully was but a tool and puppet of the packers."

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