The Jungle eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 445 pages of information about The Jungle.
maddening for a strong man like him, a fighter, to have to lie there helpless on his back.  It was for all the world the old story of Prometheus bound.  As Jurgis lay on his bed, hour after hour there came to him emotions that he had never known before.  Before this he had met life with a welcome—­it had its trials, but none that a man could not face.  But now, in the nighttime, when he lay tossing about, there would come stalking into his chamber a grisly phantom, the sight of which made his flesh curl and his hair to bristle up.  It was like seeing the world fall away from underneath his feet; like plunging down into a bottomless abyss into yawning caverns of despair.  It might be true, then, after all, what others had told him about life, that the best powers of a man might not be equal to it!  It might be true that, strive as he would, toil as he would, he might fail, and go down and be destroyed!  The thought of this was like an icy hand at his heart; the thought that here, in this ghastly home of all horror, he and all those who were dear to him might lie and perish of starvation and cold, and there would be no ear to hear their cry, no hand to help them!  It was true, it was true,—­that here in this huge city, with its stores of heaped-up wealth, human creatures might be hunted down and destroyed by the wild-beast powers of nature, just as truly as ever they were in the days of the cave men!

Ona was now making about thirty dollars a month, and Stanislovas about thirteen.  To add to this there was the board of Jonas and Marija, about forty-five dollars.  Deducting from this the rent, interest, and installments on the furniture, they had left sixty dollars, and deducting the coal, they had fifty.  They did without everything that human beings could do without; they went in old and ragged clothing, that left them at the mercy of the cold, and when the children’s shoes wore out, they tied them up with string.  Half invalid as she was, Ona would do herself harm by walking in the rain and cold when she ought to have ridden; they bought literally nothing but food—­and still they could not keep alive on fifty dollars a month.  They might have done it, if only they could have gotten pure food, and at fair prices; or if only they had known what to get—­if they had not been so pitifully ignorant!  But they had come to a new country, where everything was different, including the food.  They had always been accustomed to eat a great deal of smoked sausage, and how could they know that what they bought in America was not the same—­that its color was made by chemicals, and its smoky flavor by more chemicals, and that it was full of “potato flour” besides?  Potato flour is the waste of potato after the starch and alcohol have been extracted; it has no more food value than so much wood, and as its use as a food adulterant is a penal offense in Europe, thousands of tons of it are shipped to America every year.  It was amazing what quantities of food such as this were needed every day, by eleven hungry persons.  A dollar sixty-five a day was simply not enough to feed them, and there was no use trying; and so each week they made an inroad upon the pitiful little bank account that Ona had begun.  Because the account was in her name, it was possible for her to keep this a secret from her husband, and to keep the heartsickness of it for her own.

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The Jungle from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.