Book Notes Chapter 3 Notes from The Jungle

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The Jungle Chapter 3

Jurgis is hired at Brown's Meat packing plant as a shoveler. He'll shovel blood and guts from the slaughtered cattle. He is set to begin the next day so Jokubus leaves the deli in his wife's hands and shows the newcomers around the yards. The cattle pens are innumerable and there seems to be millions of cows. The rail yards carry the cattle to the slaughterhouse where the mechanics of the process are awe-inspiring. 8-10 million cattle, hogs, and sheep are turned into food each year at this plant. Jokubus takes the family through a guided tour of Durham's buildings (Durham and Brown's are rival packing plants). They start at the hog slaughterhouse where the screams of the hogs are so appalling, the female visitors cry. The process of slaughter is so mechanical that the author ponders the fate of the hog - whether there is a place for these hogs after death where their cries mean something to someone, where their lives mean something. It's something the characters might be asking about themselves after a few months in the yards. "Relentless, remorseless, it was; all his protests, his screams, were nothing to it--it did its cruel will with him, as if his wishes, his feelings, had simply no existence at all; it cut his throat and watched him gasp out his life." Chapter 3, pg. 41 A government inspector "inspects" each carcass before it goes into the freezing room, feeling its glands for tuberculosis. But he is easily distracted and any number of carcasses could go right by him without inspection.

Topic Tracking: Muckraking 1

Jokubus cynically points out the signs posted that demand cleanliness. Jurgis can't understand why his friend is sarcastic. Jokubus offers to show the group the room where the spoiled meats go to be "doctored." Every part of the animal is used and processed. Entrails are cleaned to become sausage casings; scraps are used for soap and lard.

"They use everything about the hog except the squeal." Chapter 3, pg. 38

Down the line, workers prepare the carcass. Every hour, four to five hundred cattle are turned into beef. The group watches as men knock cattle over the head with a sledgehammer, and then slide the stunned animal into a "killing bed." The butcher bleeds it and blood collects on the floor faster than the men shoveling it into holes in the floor can clean it up. The carcass is dropped to this floor, skinned and decapitated, then hung back up for cleaning. Jurgis and his family have never seen such efficiency. The packing plant seems to need nothing from the outside world. In their complex of buildings, they have a steam plant, an electricity plant, a barrel factory, a boiler repair shop, a soap and lard factory, a lard can factory, a glue factory, and a number of other processing plants. The plants employ thirty thousand men and support over two hundred fifty thousand people in its neighborhood. Jurgis is so impressed by this that he can't understand Jokubus' cynicism. He is grateful to have a job in the yards.

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