The Jungle By Upton Sinclair Summary and Analysis Chapter 26

Summary

Following Scully's advice, Jurgis keeps his job at Durham's. Scully wants him there because a strike is imminent. When the strike takes place, he then encourages Jurgis to be a scab and use the strike to his advantage. Jurgis is one of the few skilled men inside the plant during the strike. After a night of drinking and gambling, Jurgis encounters Connor. Again Jurgis assaults him; again Jurgis himself is beaten and taken to the police station. Although Bush Harper attempts to help Jurgis, Jurgis now finds out that Connor is one of Scully's right hand men. Harper convinces Jurgis to pay him as much money as he has so Harper can use it to pay off a man to reduce Jurgis's bail (Harper, of course, pockets the money) and encourages Jurgis to skip town once he is out on bail.

Analysis

A strike by meat cutters and butchers actually took place in 1904. Sinclair uses this incident as the basis for his story. Combining the facts of the strike with the facts of corruption, Sinclair accurately presents life at the turn of the century in Chicago. In fact, critics and historians rarely dispute his presentation of this information. Only the accuracy of Sinclair's descriptions of the extreme working conditions and abuses presented within the meatpacking plants are consistently questioned and debated. The strike in 1904 failed for the same reasons presented in The Jungle: dishonest negotiations between management and labor, the flood of workers into the market, and the increase of product prices while the prices of raw materials are forced down. The fact that the majority of the jobs required only unskilled labor also affected the workers' chance at a decent strike settlement.

During the strike, Sinclair continues his use of summary narrative, and in doing so, he presents the black scabs as if they, too, are animals, showing no insight or appreciation for black culture. Thematically, this is important because it shows the greed of the packers, who hire anyone as long as the packers themselves keep making a profit. It also shows, ironically, the similarity between the workers and the packers: Everyone is class conscious and recognizes a superior or inferior group of people based on assumptions and misinformation. Whether this view is Sinclair's own is not as clear. The omniscient narrator speaks of the blacks as a collective group, and Sinclair offers no insight into individual thoughts and feelings. Historically, at the turn of the century, the Socialist Party was not particularly interested in the well-being and advancement of African Americans.

As for Jurgis, again fate intervenes, and all of his good fortune is lost due to one chance meeting with Connor. Initially, this appears to be yet another loss for the hardworking protagonist; however, this chance meeting actually enables Jurgis to discover socialism. In doing so, Jurgis realizes that socialism alone provides a way out of the capitalistic problems he has encountered throughout his life in America.

Glossary

arbitration the settlement of a dispute by a person or persons chosen to hear both sides and come to a decision.

labyrinthine having an intricate network of winding passages hard to follow without losing one's way.

pell-mell in a jumbled, confused mass or manner; without order or method.

helter-skelter in a disorderly, hurried manner.

kimono a loose dressing gown.

smote to have struck or hit hard.

Joliet referring to a prison located in the town of the same name in northeast Illinois.

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