The Jungle Themes & Motifs

This Study Guide consists of approximately 44 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Jungle.
This section contains 674 words
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Family

Jurgis comes to Chicago in the hopes of marrying the woman of his dreams and having a family with her. To this end, Jurgis finds himself the head of a family of twelve. It proves to be a difficult time in Chicago as Jurgis and his family had no clue what it would be like to live in a country where capitalism is alive and well, with the rich man cheating the poor man as often as possible.

For Jurgis, family is all that matters. Jurgis works to provide for Ona and stays away from alcohol to please Ona. Jurgis only wants for Ona to have everything she could desire. With Ona comes her family, so Jurgis takes them in as his own and never again thinks of them as anything but his. When Ona dies, Jurgis goes right out to find a job in order to help care for his family.

For a time, Jurgis realizes that life could be so much simpler without family. Jurgis lives on his own and adopts a criminal lifestyle. In the end, however, he comes back to his moral roots and searches out his family. Jurgis once again becomes the sole wage earner for his family, providing him with everything he can possibly gain. Jurgis is a good man who gives up the simplicity of single life for family, making family a theme of the novel.

Poverty

Jurgis and his family are poor in Lithuania, but they have enough to eat, a place to live, and they are happy. However, they desire to do better, so they decide to move to America where they have been told they could make lots of money. They do not realize that this higher wage is offset by a higher cost of living.

Jurgis and his family buy a house and are shocked by the hidden costs. They work hard, but they never seem to get ahead because each time they have a little money in the bank someone loses their job or someone is injured. Everything comes to a head one winter when Jurgis goes to jail. All of the adults lose their jobs for one reason or another. The family loses their house. They have so little money that they cannot buy food or provide a doctor for Ona when she goes into premature labor.

After Ona’s death, Jurgis goes back to work and makes enough to pay room and board for the remaining members of the family. However, with the death of his son, Jurgis is so despondent that he runs away for a time. Jurgis eventually returns to the city, but worse is yet to come. Jurgis is injured and finds himself so desperate that he has to beg on the streets for food and lodging. Later, Jurgis again finds himself on the street during Chicago’s harsh winter, leaving him forced to find warmth in political meetings and saloons. Jurgis feels poverty and desperation as often as he feels warmth and security. For this reason, poverty is a theme of the novel.

Socialism

At the end of the novel Jurgis is once again home homeless and moving from place to place to find warmth and food. One night Jurgis wanders into a political meeting in order to find a place to sit and warm up. During this meeting, Jurgis hears a man speaking about the same atrocities that destroyed Jurgis’s family. These things inspire Jurgis to learn more about the political movement and eventually embrace it as his own.

Socialism is a political movement that proposes ways to eliminate the class differences and make society equal. At the end of the novel, Jurgis sees in this movement the same hope he wanted from the unions in Packingtown but failed to achieve. As Jurgis embraces the movement, it begins to spread throughout the country and eventually wins multiple major elections nationwide. It is a movement that could save people like Jurgis in the future, making socialism a theme of the novel.

This section contains 674 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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