Summary and Analysis Chapter 16



At the police station Jurgis is booked on charges of assault and battery. After his satisfaction at taking revenge on Connor subsides, Jurgis begins to worry about Ona and the family. He is convinced they will lose the house. Incarcerated on Christmas Eve, Jurgis hears the church bells and curses the injustice and insanity of American society.


Readers sympathize with Jurgis and understand his attack on Connor, but the courts do not. As readers side with Jurgis, it is easier for them to agree with his conclusion that justice is a lie and does not exist. Capitalism not only adversely affects the workers, its evil infiltrates the seemingly unbiased judicial system. In reality, the courts are just as corrupt as industry is.

While in jail, Jurgis determines that society is his enemy. His conclusions mark the beginning of a new Jurgis. He no longer is the naïve young immigrant who arrived ready to work, eager to fulfill the American dream. The reference at the end of the chapter to an Oscar Wilde poem is clearly from Sinclair's and not Jurgis' experience. Although the sentiment matches the scenario, the literary allusion is inappropriate, because Jurgis, an uneducated immigrant, would have no knowledge of Wilde.


melee a noisy, confused fight or hand-to-hand struggle among a number of people.

glutted fed to excess.

fetid having a bad smell, as of decay.

clangor a continued clanging.

outlawry disregard or defiance of the law.

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