The Jungle

by Upton Sinclair

The Jungle

The Jungle is a novel by American author and socialist Upton Sinclair. It describes the life of a family of Lithuanian immigrants working in Chicago’s Union Stock Yards at the beginning of the 20th century. The novel depicts in harsh tones the poverty, complete absence of social security, scandalous living and working conditions, and generally utter hopelessness prevalent among the have-nots, which is contrasted with the deeply-rooted corruption on the part of the haves. The sad state of turn-of-the-century labor is placed front and center for the American public to see suggesting that something needed to be changed to get rid of American “wage slavery”. The novel is also an important example of the “muckraking” tradition begun by journalists such as Jacob Riis. Sinclair wanted to show how the mainstream parties of American politics, already being tied into the industrial-capitalist machine, offered little means for progressive change. As such the book is deeply supportive of values and criticisms held by Communism, a movement still in its infancy at the time.

Source: Sinclair, Upton. (1906). The Jungle. New York: Doubleday, Jabber, and Co.

Chapter 1
Jurgis and Ona celebrate their wedding, however so little money is received from the guest that Jurgis can't pay for the reception. Jurgis vows to work harder. Jurgis and Ona's past in Lithuania is revisited.
Chapter 2
Jurgis looks for work and is temporarily hired at Brown and Company. More of Jurgis's and Ona's life in Lithuania is revisited. Their decision to immigrate to Chicago is met with a series of encounters with corrupt agents and officials.
Chapter 3
Jurgis gets a job at Packingtown. Jurgis witnesses the processes inside a beef and pork packing plant.
Chapter 4
Jurgis reports to the plant as Jonas and Marija both continue to look for employment. Jurgis purchases a house.
Chapter 5
The expense of owning the house begins to absorb all of the family's money, while Jurgis is approached by union personnel. Both Antanas and Marija find jobs, however the circumstances surrounding each job are questionable.
Chapter 6
Jurgis is told the history of his house, only to learn it is neither new or bought at a fair price. Ona and Stanislova secure jobs. Jurgis and Ona begin planning for their wedding.
Chapter 7
Jurgis and Ona finally marry. Ona and Elzbiata are constantly sick, while Antanas develops a cough and open sores from work. The harsh winter in Packingtown intensifies the hardships of the family.
Chapter 8
Jurgis is once again confronted by union representatives and agrees to join. Jurgis convinces the rest of the family to join the union as the becomes deeply devoted to its cause.
Chapter 9
Jurgis learns english as his involvement in the union increases. Jurgis is encouraged to vote. Jurgis becomes aware of the many corrupt practices that are prevalent in various industries.
Chapter 10
House expenses continue to trouble Jurgis and his family. Ona, who has become pregnant and given birth to a son, is in poor health after returning to work too soon to recover from child birth.
Chapter 11
Jurgis learns of the "Beef Trust". A harsh winter falls on the city, once again taking a toll on Jurgis and his family. Jurgis misses work after spraining his ankle.
Chapter 12
Jurgis returns to work and experiences a worse injury than before. Strikes, weather and injuries prevent Ona, Stanislova, and Jurgis from working. Ona's health deteriorates quickly, as Jurgis finds himself in the ranks of the unemployed.
Chapter 13
Elzibieta's youngest son passes away. Jurgis accepts a job at the fertilizer factory, suffering from physical illness almost immediately. Elzbieta finds work so her remaining sons can return to school.
Chapter 14
Jurgis and his family continue to witness corruption in their respective jobs. Jurgis decides to drink rather than deal with his problems. Ona's health continues to decline.
Chapter 15
When Ona fails to come home from work one night, Jurgis learns that she is being taken advantage of by Connor, one of her supervisors. Jurgis attempts to kill Connor in a fit of rage, only to be arrested.
Chapter 16
Jurgis is charged with assault and battery, and spends Christmas Eve in jail.
Chapter 17
Jurgis is sentenced to thirty days in jail. Stanislova visits Jurgis in jail.
Chapter 18
Jurgis returns to his house after he is released from prison, only to find that someone else has bought it. Jurgis finds the family at the Widow Jukniene's house. Ona goes into labor early and the family cannot afford a midwife.
Chapter 19
Jurgis returns with a midwife, but the baby is dead and Ona is dying. After Ona's death, Jurgis leaves the house intending to drink.
Chapter 20
Jurgis is unemployable, having been blacklisted. Jurgis eventually finds employment, only to be laid-off in less than two weeks.
Chapter 21
Jurgis begins working at a steel mill, however the distance to work only allows him to see his family on the weekends. Marija and Elzbieta both find work as the family prepares for the upcoming winter. Jurgis experiences another tragedy.
Chapter 22
Jurgis jumps aboard a freight train in a state of shock. In the country Jurgis becomes a vagabond, stealing just to survive. After witnessing a mother and child, Jurgis breaks down.
Chapter 23
Jurgis returns to Packingtown and finds work digging tunnels. An injury and hospital stay force Jurgis to become a beggar.
Chapter 24
Jurgis is invited home by an intoxicated man who gives him a hundred dollar bill. Jurgis recognizes the man as the son of a former supervisor at the packing plant.
Chapter 25
Jurgis' money is stolen by a dishonest bartender. Jurgis is imprisoned again after assaulting the bartender. Jack encounters Jack Duane for the second time while in prison. After his release from prison, Jurgis begins to work for organized crime.
Chapter 26
Jurgis becomes a scab, undermining a union strike. Jurgis' financial prosperity ends after he assaults Connor a second time. Jurgis is promptly beaten and arrested for the third time.
Chapter 27
Essentially homeless, Jurgis runs into a woman who attended his wedding and is given Marija's address. Jurgis visits Marija right before the police arrive to raid the house. Jurgis learns that Marija has been working as a prostitute and is addicted to morphine. Jurgis is arrested again.
Chapter 28
Jurgis attends another political meeting and is revitalized by the message.
Chapter 29
Jurgis meets the speaker and eventually introduced to Comrade Ostrinski. Ostrinski explains the concept of socialism to Jurgis.
Chapter 30
Jurgis visits Elzbieta. Jurgis finds work as a hotel porter and continues to learn about socialism from his co-workers.
Chapter 31
Jurgis pleads Marija to quit the brothel, but she refuses. Jurgis attends a Socialist Party function the day before nationwide election. Election results show promise for the socialist movement.
  • Year Published: 1906
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 8.8
  • Word Count: 157,729
  • Genre: Realism
  • Keywords: social injustice
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