The Jungle By Upton Sinclair Summary and Analysis Chapter 21

Summary

Jurgis spends days away from home, looking for work, fighting to stay alive. A chance meeting between Elzbieta's son and a settlement worker provides Jurgis with a letter to the superintendent of a steel mill. Because the mill is far away, Jurgis sleeps at a lodging house during the week, returning to Packingtown on the weekends. An accident at the mill forces Jurgis to miss some work but enables him to spend some time with his son. Marija and Elzbieta are both finally working. It is springtime but Jurgis is already preparing for the next winter. One Saturday, after a heavy rain, Jurgis returns home to discover that Antanas has drowned.

Analysis

Antanas' death is the second central turning point in The Jungle. Just when Jurgis' life appears to be back on track, just when he begins to have hope for the future, fate transforms his dreams into nightmares. Antanas is another character who dies, another victim of fate.

The settlement worker introduced in Chapter 21 represents a reversal of sexual politics — for the first time, a female controls a man based on sex and economics. Her interference, although doing nothing to help the unsafe conditions in the plant, does result in a job for Jurgis. This is the complete opposite of the abusive sexual politics that Connor exercised. Although she is the first woman to exhibit a position of power, the results are still negative. Although she enables Jurgis to find a job, the job keeps him from his family; therefore, he is unable to protect his son.

In fitting literary irony, Sinclair places the death of Antanas during springtime — typically the season of new life and rebirth — and just as Jurgis begins to have a sense of new life and a new beginning, it is literally drowned.

Glossary

settlement an institution in a depressed and congested neighborhood offering social services and educational and recreational activities.

naïvely in an unaffectedly, or sometimes foolishly, simple manner; artlessly.

catechism a formal series of questions; close questioning.

billet a long, rectangular or cylindrical unfinished bar of iron or steel, usually smaller than 36 inches.

incandescent very bright; shining brilliantly.

ingot a mass of metal cast into a bar or other convenient shape.

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