THE JUNGLE By: Upton Sinclair There are many characters in The Jungle.These characters varywidely in their professions, social status, and economic status.Themain character in the novel is a Lithuanian named Jurgis Rudkus.Hiswife is Ona Lukoszaite, also a Lithuanian.Their son is namedAntanas.
Mike Scully is a powerful political leader in Packingtown. Phil Connor is a foreman in Packingtown, "politically connected"(through Scully), and a man who causes much trouble for Jurgis.JackDuane is an experienced and educated criminal who is also"politically connected".A man called Ostrinski is a half-blindtailor who teaches Jurgis about Socialism.There are also themembers of Ona's family, each of whom play minor roles in the story.
The story opens with the feast at Jurgis and Ona's wedding inAmerica, but soon flashes back to the time before they leftLithuania.Jurgis met Ona at a horse fair, and fell in love withher.Unfortunately, they were too poor to have a wedding, sinceOna's father just died.In the hopes of finding freedom and fortune,they left for America, bringing many members of Ona's family withthem. After arriving in America, they are taken to Packingtown to findwork.
Packingtown is a section of Chicago where the meat packingindustry is centralized.They take a tour of the plant, and see theunbelievable efficiency and speed at which hogs and cattle arebutchered, cooked, packed, and shipped.In Packingtown, no part ofthe animal is wasted.The tour guide specifically says "They useeverything about the hog except the squeal," (The Jungle, page 38).
Jurgis's brawny build quickly gets him a job on the cattle killingbeds.The other members of the family soon find jobs, except for thechildren.They are put into school.At first, Jurgis is happy withhis job and America, but he soon learns that America is plagued bycorruption, dishonesty, and bribery.He is forced to work at highspeeds for long hours with low pay, and so is the rest of the family.
He is cheated out of his money several times.The children mustleave school and go to work to help the family survive.This meansthey will never receive the education they need to rise above this.
Ona is not permitted to take a holiday, even for her own wedding. After the birth of her first son, Antanas, Ona soon becomes pregnantagain.She becomes very upset, but will not tell Jurgis why.Aftershe fails to come home one night, Jurgis confronts her.She breaksinto tears and tells Jurgis that a foreman named Connor has forced asexual relationship on her.Jurgis curses her and runs off to findConnor.
After beating Connor to a pulp, Jurgis is sent to jail for thirtydays.The judge refuses to listen to Jurgis's story seriously.WhenJurgis is released, he finds that his family has moved to an evenpoorer neighborhood, and Ona is in labor at that very moment. Neither the baby, nor Ona, who went into labor two months early,survive.Jurgis pulls himself together for the sake of Antanas andgets a job.When Antanas drowns.