Summary and Analysis
Reluctant to face Elzbieta while still unemployed, Jurgis impulsively attends another political meeting. This time, when he falls asleep, instead of being kicked out, he is encouraged to listen. Jurgis does listen and feels as if the powerful, persuasive voice is directing his comments directly to him. The speaker awakens old dreams and desires, long dormant within Jurgis' soul, and persuades Jurgis not to accept defeat.
This chapter serves as the climax of the novel, marking Jurgis' transition from the Old World to the New World; however, the New World is not America but rather, socialism. Serving as a contrast to the brothel, the symbol of capitalism in the previous chapter, Jurgis has an epiphany at a political meeting, the symbolic setting for socialism and change. For the first time in his life, Jurgis is willing to listen to the rhetoric of socialism, and the message moves him.
The idea of socialism appeals to Jurgis, and he must find out more. This radical change in both character and tone is one of the major weaknesses of The Jungle. Because Sinclair has been using summary narrative, readers know nothing about the personal side of Jurgis. His radical departure from his normal behavior goes against everything that Sinclair has presented about Jurgis before, and therefore, rings false. Sinclair has made references, albeit small ones, to socialism throughout the text, but now he goes beyond introducing the ideology to making it the major emphasis of the final three chapters. Moreover, therein lies another problem with The Jungle. Sinclair's flawed story ends up dismissing Jurgis, his family, and the plight of immigrants for the sake of socialism. Sinclair abandons his characters and his narrative for the sake of a political treatise.
The end of this chapter also marks the end of pure Zolaism. The discovery of hope and the revival of Jurgis' manhood is exactly opposite to the typically Zolaist hero who goes down in defeat. In doing this, Sinclair states that socialism is the answer to realism as well as capitalism. Marija and Jurgis illustrate the dichotomy between the two: Marija is still trapped and is therefore the victim while Jurgis escapes, becoming an activist.
absinthe green, bitter, toxic liqueur made with wormwood oil and anise: now illegal in most countries.
garret the space, room, or rooms just below the roof of a house; attic.
blandishments flattering or ingratiating acts or remarks, meant to persuade.