The Jungle: Chapters 28-31
Jurgis is released from court and is fortunately not recognized by the clerk or the judge. After this, he talks to Marija and she informs that she is now addicted to morphine. She also explains that although she earns twenty five to thirty dollars a night the bills for living in the brothel are high. This traps the women into continuing to work there. As he prepares to leave her, Marija urges him to visit Elzbieta.
He defers going as he still feels shame for leaving the family and attends a meeting instead (for shelter rather than interest). He falls asleep again, but is not ejected this time. He is woken up by a beautiful woman who addresses him as comrade and tells him he might find the speech interesting.
A lengthy speech is then given and the speaker says he giving voice to the millions who are oppressed. Jurgis listens intently and is ‘smitten with wonder’. The speaker adds that he is pleading most with the working man and knows what it is to be a street waif. He then goes on to demand the end of poverty. Jurgis and the rest of the audience shout their agreement at the end and he sees ‘an unfolding of vistas before him’.
Chapter Twenty Nine continues with these events and the crowd now sing the ‘Marsellaise’. Jurgis feels as though he has undergone a religious experience and has been delivered ‘from the thraldom of despair’. He finally decides to speak to the orator to thank him and he is then introduced to Ostrinski, who can speak Lithuanian and will be able to explain socialism more clearly.
The tenets of socialism are then explained to Jurgis and the readers as Ostrinski relates how this is an international movement. It has no bosses and is controlled by its own membership. He then links it to ‘the literal application of all the teachings of Christ’. He also indicates how the Beef Trust operates by crushing all opposition and their power is not driven by fate as Jurgis used to believe. Jurgis recalls how, when he first arrived in Packingtown, he congratulated himself for not being a hog and Ostrinski develops the idea that the workers are regarded as the same as the animals. The Beef Trust ‘is the spirit of capitalism made flesh’ and breaks the law at will.
The next day (in Chapter Thirty) Jurgis visits Elzbieta and is no longer embarrassed or ashamed for leaving them. He tells her about his interest in socialism, but she is impervious to it. She is only concerned that he is looking for work and will be willing to contribute to the family fund.
After a week of searching, Jurgis is employed as a porter in a small hotel. He learns from Ostrinski that the owner (Tommy Hinds) is state organizer of the socialist party and has been a member for eight years. When Hinds discovers the details of Jurgis’s previous work in Packingtown, he encourages him to speak to the guests about it - in particular the western cattlemen who stay over.
Jurgis continues to be interested in socialism and is driven to seek further knowledge and begins to read more. He also attends more meetings including one with a young author whose adventures in the Klondike and London are comparable to those of Jack London.
He also reads the weekly socialist ‘propaganda’ paper, ‘Appeal to Reason’, and helps to give these out in Packingtown in order to undo his work for Mike Scully.
In the final chapter, it is related how Jurgis now stays with Elzbieta who is sick and her children who are now wild and unruly. Socialism gives him solace for these problems. He also tells Marija that does not have to work as a prostitute any longer as he will support the family, but she refuses and says she is not fit to do anything else now.
The narrative shifts to a meeting of sorts at Fisher’s home. Fisher is a millionaire who has given his time over to do settlement work. Whilst there, he listens to Schliemann talk. This former university professor criticizes religion and the institution of marriage and compares it to a form of prostitution for women. Another guest, Lucas, defends Jesus as a ‘class conscious workingman’. Schliemann then speaks of how, after the revolution, there will be independent, self-governing communities and goes on to advocate the idea of co-operatives. He also outlines the drudgery of housework and prefers the idea of collective work including farming.
The final part of the novel is set on election night once more. Jurgis and his fellow workers rush to the meeting hall and listen to the marked increases in socialist votes across the country. One of the most surprising events is the dramatic increase in socialist votes in the stockyards. In just over a year, it has risen from five hundred to six thousand three hundred; the Democrats won with eight thousand eight hundred. An orator at the meeting stresses how Chicago now leads the way in socialist voting. The novel ends with the crowd being urged to not rest on their laurels, and the words ‘Chicago will be ours!’
These last four chapters detail Jurgis’s discovery and understanding of socialist thinking. This ending fits with the socialist methodology that has been applied throughout the novel. The effects of capitalism have been seen to destroy Jurgis’s family and his own morals. His turn to socialism is, then, the only possible form of a happy ending that could be used. Because this is a somewhat didactic work, in that it is teaching the readers how wage slavery is corrupt and life endangering, Jurgis’s sense of transformation now that he understands socialist thinking is another lesson for the readers to learn. If Jurgis can be helped to improve his life with a faith in socialism, so can anybody.