The Jungle - Study Guide Chapters 7-8 Summary & Analysis

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Summary

After the wedding, Jurgis works harder to make a life for his new wife. Jurgis makes Ona take the streetcar to work, but she is too shy to speak to the conductor and a misunderstanding over a transfer causes her to have to walk a distance in the rain. This causes Ona to get sick, an illness she never fully recovers from. At the same time, the children at home are sick constantly because there is no sewer for the house, and the waste collects under the house. Antanas, too, develops a worrisome cough from the wetness associated with his job. The chemicals in the water also cause him to develop sores in his feet that never heal.

Winter comes. The weather is very cold, and there is often several feet of snow on the ground. It becomes difficult for the Rudkus’s to get to work by walking, but they cannot afford to ride the streetcars everyday. Stanislovas suffers the most when he develops a deep fear of the cold after seeing a coworker lose his ears to the extreme temperature. Jurgis finds himself forced to beat Stanislovas each morning to make him go out into the cold. During this winter, Jurgis begins eating his meals at the local saloons where it is required that he buy at least one drink. This leads many men to develop a drinking problem, but Jurgis fights this demon off because of his love for Ona.

Marija has fallen in love with Tamoszius and they become engaged. However, the wedding must be put off until Jurgis and Ona can pay back money Marija has allowed them to borrow for the family. Then the canning factory where Marija works is shut down, and Marija no longer has an income. Marija must start using her savings to pay her part of the house payment. At the same time, work slows on the killing beds, and Jurgis sees his pay cut in half.

Jurgis has seen enough on the killing beds that he has begun to understand the purpose of the union. For this reason, not only does Jurgis join the union, but he encourages all the people in his family to join as well. However, the union does not solve much for the family. Jurgis begins to attend the union meetings, and he learns English so that he might begin to understand the purpose of the union and how to make things better for his family.

Analysis

The health of the Rudkus family is beginning to suffer from the poor work and living conditions of the stockyards. Antanas is the one who worries the others the most because his working conditions are particularly poor. It is a difficult situation for such an old man who was already suffering from a bad cough before his move to the country in Lithuania. The discussion of his failing health suggests to the reader that Antanas might not be long for this world, taking away Jurgis’s beloved father as well as another source of income.

The winter in Chicago is a very difficult one. This family is not fully prepared for just how bad the weather is about to get. The packing houses do not have air conditioning or heat, leaving the workers unprotected from the weather. Their house, too, does not have heat. The family is constantly cold, constantly fighting the weather. This makes them miserable and vulnerable to illness and death. This chapter foreshadows more trouble to come for this family.

Marija has found love, but again money keeps her from getting married. Marija also wants to have a traditional wedding, but she has not saved enough money to do so. For this reason, the wedding is postponed. When Marija almost has enough money, she loses her job when the canning factory is closed down for a lack of demand. This places Marija in a difficult position and delays her wedding even further. Once again, money troubles change the direction of these people’s lives.

Jurgis and his family have all joined the unions, but they do not see any change in their circumstances. Jurgis seems to think that the union has the power to change things immediately, but this does not happen. For this reason, Jurgis begins learning English so that he can understand more of what happens at the union meetings. This is proof of Jurgis’s determination to be in control of his life and his future. This is an all important determination that will get Jurgis through some of the darker moments in his life.

Discussion Question 1

What is causing Antanas’ illness? How could this have been avoided? Why does the old man not attempt to change his situation?

Discussion Question 2

Why do Marija and her fiancé delay their wedding? Why is money an important factor in their plans? What happens to delay their plans even more?

Discussion Question 3

Why has Jurgis begun to learn English? How will this help him in dealing with the people around him? Why did he not learn it earlier?

Vocabulary

Carcass, inconvenience, streetcar, containing, frankfurters, infinite, cosey, pleasure, wonderland, intending, condition, convention, practice, shiver, understood, attached, condition, workingmen, downstream, refusing, deadly, brutalizing, gospel, missionary, disillusionment, affliction, allies, rescued, embarrassment, inquiringly, surroundings, perspiration, operation, representation, similarity, developing, confidential, discovery.

This section contains 885 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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