Book Notes Chapter 2 Notes from The Jungle

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The Jungle Chapter 2

The story of how Jurgis and Ona, and their families, came to Chicago is detailed, and the tale of their trials in America essentially begins here. Jurgis was raised in Brelovicz, the Lithuanian Imperial Forest. His brother had been drafted into the army over ten years ago and hasn't been heard from since. His sister married and bought the family house from the father, Antanas, who had decided to leave for America with his son. Jurgis met Ona a year and a half before their journey to America, at a horse fair in Lithuania. She had been just a child then and though Jurgis, passionately in love, offered Ona's father two horses to "buy" her, he was refused because she was too young. Over the next spring and summer, Jurgis didn't forget her. He returned and found that her father had died and his assets were tied up with debt collectors. Elzbieta, Ona's stepmother, and her seven kids, as well as Elzbieta's brother Jonas, remained with Ona. But Ona still wouldn't marry Jurgis because she didn't want to leave Elzbieta. Jonas knows a Lithuanian who had made a fortune in America and so to them, America sounded promising-a chance for riches and freedom. At the last minute, cousin Marija joined them for the trip over. Counting everyone, there are twelve in their party.

They head toward Chicago and the trip goes poorly. They are cheated by officials in America, and tricked into staying at expensive hotels. When they arrive in Chicago, they become lost immediately and a cop puts them on a train to the stockyards. The city is disgusting; dirty, smoky and filthy. The family begins to smell the slaughterhouses and to hear the sounds of the cattle in the pens. "It is an elemental odor, raw and crude; it is rich, almost rancid, sensual and strong." Chapter 2, pg. 28. The sounds from the slaughterhouse are chilling. "It is a sound, a sound made up of ten thousand little sounds. You scarcely noticed it at first-it sunk into your consciousness, a vague disturbance, a trouble."Chapter 2, pg. 29

When they arrive in the yards, they find Jokubus Szedvilas's delicatessen. He sends them to a boarding house, which is a terrible, filthy place where people sleep six to a room, often fourteen, on dirty mattresses on a floor. It's threadbare and rat-infested. The neighborhood is choked with children who run the streets and rake through the city dump nearby. There is standing water, rot, planks, and flies everywhere. "The line of the buildings stood clear-cut and black against the sky; here and there out of the mass rose the great chimneys, with the river of smoke streaming away to the end of the world." Chapter 2, pg. 33

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