The Jungle eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 445 pages of information about The Jungle.
And the bitter mockery of it—­all this was punishment for him!  They put him in a place where the snow could not beat in, where the cold could not eat through his bones; they brought him food and drink—­why, in the name of heaven, if they must punish him, did they not put his family in jail and leave him outside—­why could they find no better way to punish him than to leave three weak women and six helpless children to starve and freeze?  That was their law, that was their justice!

Jurgis stood upright; trembling with passion, his hands clenched and his arms upraised, his whole soul ablaze with hatred and defiance.  Ten thousand curses upon them and their law!  Their justice—­it was a lie, it was a lie, a hideous, brutal lie, a thing too black and hateful for any world but a world of nightmares.  It was a sham and a loathsome mockery.  There was no justice, there was no right, anywhere in it—­it was only force, it was tyranny, the will and the power, reckless and unrestrained!  They had ground him beneath their heel, they had devoured all his substance; they had murdered his old father, they had broken and wrecked his wife, they had crushed and cowed his whole family; and now they were through with him, they had no further use for him—­and because he had interfered with them, had gotten in their way, this was what they had done to him!  They had put him behind bars, as if he had been a wild beast, a thing without sense or reason, without rights, without affections, without feelings.  Nay, they would not even have treated a beast as they had treated him!  Would any man in his senses have trapped a wild thing in its lair, and left its young behind to die?

These midnight hours were fateful ones to Jurgis; in them was the beginning of his rebellion, of his outlawry and his unbelief.  He had no wit to trace back the social crime to its far sources—­he could not say that it was the thing men have called “the system” that was crushing him to the earth that it was the packers, his masters, who had bought up the law of the land, and had dealt out their brutal will to him from the seat of justice.  He only knew that he was wronged, and that the world had wronged him; that the law, that society, with all its powers, had declared itself his foe.  And every hour his soul grew blacker, every hour he dreamed new dreams of vengeance, of defiance, of raging, frenzied hate.

The vilest deeds, like poison weeds,
Bloom well in prison air;
It is only what is good in Man
That wastes and withers there;
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
And the Warder is Despair.

So wrote a poet, to whom the world had dealt its justice—­

I know not whether Laws be right,
Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
Is that the wall is strong. 
And they do well to hide their hell,
For in it things are done
That Son of God nor son of Man
Ever should look upon!

Chapter 17

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Project Gutenberg
The Jungle from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.