The Jungle Chapter 23
In the fall, Jurgis heads back to Chicago. When he goes back to the steel-mill and harvester works, his jobs are gone. He keeps away from the stockyards, avoiding his family. He finally gets a job after telling the man interviewing him that he'd never worked in Chicago before, escaping the blacklist. Jurgis is now digging tunnels for telephone wires. He learns later that the City Council has passed a bill allowing a company to build phone conduits under city streets for crooked purposes.
It doesn't matter to Jurgis-this is a job that will last through the winter. Jurgis spends much of his free time in the saloons. His job is tough and dangerous, and the workers are treated poorly. It does not occur to Jurgis that his work is helping Chicago merchants put down the Teamsters. One day Jurgis is injured, smashed by a loaded car. He spends Christmas in the hospital and though he enjoys his stay, he is unaware of the scandals and investigations into that particular hospital-charges that doctors performed bizarre experiments on patients. When he is released, Jurgis is still not fit for work. Once again, he has no money and has lost his place at the boarding house. He hops from saloon to saloon and one night, attends a religious revival to find shelter and heat. Jurgis is cynical of the sermons and the talk of sin and redemption. Jurgis wants to know what the preacher could possibly know about suffering. It is January 1904, and the country is on the verge of a depression. Factories shut down every day. Sin is far down on the list of concerns among the people who are starving. Jurgis begins begging to stay alive. "They are trying to save their souls-and who but a fool could fail to see that all that is the matter with their souls is that they has not been able to get a decent existence for their bodies?" Chapter 23, pg. 273