The Jungle - Chapters 9-10 Summary & Analysis

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Summary

Jurgis begins going to school to learn to read and write English. Jurgis also gets his naturalization papers and becomes a citizen. Soon after, Jurgis is paid to vote in the local elections.

Jurgis begins learning more and more about the way things work in the stockyards. There is a man called Mike Scully who owns most of the businesses outside of the packing houses and controls most of the local government. Even the packing house owners are fearful of Scully and work under his thumb. The packing houses themselves operate on the edge of legality, often stealing water from the city among other things. A man who crosses Scully or the packing houses bosses is a man who will never be able to provide for his family in the stockyards again. Jurgis learns more and more of the illegal and unsanitary practices in the packing houses from other people who work in the stockyards.

The family begins to struggle financially. They manage to get through winter despite unexpected expenses. When spring comes, they expect things to get better. However, Marija is unable to make her part of the house payment. During the summer, the work picks up. Then, they are working such long hours that they never see the sun except on Sundays. Marija gets her job back when the canning factory opens again, but then she loses her job when she has a dispute with the supervisors over the number of cans they are paying her for. It takes weeks for Marija to find another job, but finally she is hired as a beef trimmer, trimming the meat off the bones.

Ona, too, is unhappy in her work. She is convinced that her supervisor dislikes her. Several prostitutes work alongside Ona, and they too seem to dislike her, too. Ona, thanks to Marija’s experience, manages to keep her tongue and avoid Marija’s fate.

Ona has a baby boy that summer. The baby is called Antanas, for Jurgis’s father who has passed away. Jurgis adores his new son, but there is little time in which he can spend with him because of his work schedule. At the same time, Ona decides to go back to work after only a week, even though the doctor has recommended she nurse the child for several months. This causes Ona to have womb problems for the rest of her life.

Analysis

As time passes, Jurgis learns more and more about the practices of the packing houses. Most of their practices are illegal and dangerous to both the workers and the consumers who buy their products. This chapter focuses more on the indifference of the local government and business owners toward the people who work in these packing houses. It is a difficult life, and there really is little recourse for workers and their families who find themselves unemployed due to injury or death. It is a difficult life, a life balanced on the edge of survival and homelessness.

Summer brings more work, therefore more money. However, the family continues to struggle because they are still catching up from the deficits of winter. Then Marija loses her job because of her own stubbornness and a dispute with her supervisors. The reader can see that Marija is too proud to be dealing with a system in which the rich are out to get richer and do not care about the people who work for them. However, Marija has spirit, and the reader hopes that she will survive this difficult place where she lives.

Ona struggles as well, but she has a weaker character than her husband and her cousin. Ona works with people who dislike her for being a good girl. This makes Ona’s working life difficult for her, but she is smart enough to keep her mouth closed. At the same time, Ona has a baby. This makes Jurgis very happy, but it adds another mouth to the family that needs to be fed and cared for. This is a new burden that not only takes a toll on the family financially, but it takes a toll on Ona’s health as well. This suggests that there might be great unhappiness in the future for Jurgis and his family.

Discussion Question 1

Why does the packing house boss care if Jurgis is a naturalized citizen of the United States? Why does Jurgis go along with it? Why is Jurgis paid to vote? What does this say about the election process during the time in which this novel is set? Is this a fair way for the government to go about elections?

Discussion Question 2

Why does Marija lose her job? Was Marija right in her argument against her bosses? Why was she fired? What recourse did she have?

Discussion Question 3

What impact does it have on the family when Ona has a baby? Is this a good thing? What toll does this baby have on Ona? What does this suggest about her future?

Vocabulary

Visitor, ordinary, exhibiting, vats, pelts, hoisters, rheumatism, butchers, trimmers, renewed, artificial, tuberculosis, artificial, scarcely, interesting, statistics, industries, peculiar, diseases, mutton, afflictions, phantom, deemed, suffered, neuralgia, womb, ailments, treatment, specialist, diagnosis, operation, depression, account, responsibility, confinement, health, continued, calamity, ought, personality, haunting, excitements.

This section contains 877 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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