Summary and Analysis
Szedvilas attempts to find a job for both Antanas and Jonas, but Jurgis refuses his help and is determined to find a job himself. After waiting just half an hour, Jurgis does indeed get a job shoveling guts from a killing floor. Upon hearing Jurgis' news, Szedvilas takes the new arrivals on a tour of Packingtown. First they see the seemingly endless supply of railroads and cattle. Next Szedvilas takes them to a hog factory. Here Jurgis sees the work of the packers — at least what the owners allow the public to see. The technologically advanced pork assembly-line type of killing mechanism enables the industry to "use everything about the hog except the squeal." The dismembering of pigs contrasts with the beef plant Jurgis sees next. Not willing to waste a single portion of the animal, the Beef Trust — the organization of meat industry owners — even uses parts of the animal in the making of fertilizer. Tomorrow, Jurgis becomes a part of the system.
Most of this chapter is a process definition; that is, it systematically describes the steps of killing and cleaning a hog. The tour Szedvilas provides Jurgis also enables the reader to experience the factories. For many, the mere thought of the killing floors is repulsive, and yet this is just the first of the horrors of Packingtown revealed in the book.
Critics disagree about the success of Sinclair's hog allegory. Some think he is too extreme in his comparison and thus undermines the very point he wants to make. Others find it an extremely fitting way of recognizing the way the system used its own employees to walk to their deaths — killing themselves for the sake of progress, technology, and profits.
At the end of the chapter, Sinclair is openly critical of competition. His narrator blasts the laws of the land that supposedly require competitors, in this case Brown and Durham, to "try to ruin each other under penalty of fine and imprisonment!" This is the first of many anti-capitalistic remarks made throughout The Jungle. Unlike the previous allusions to the destructive nature of capitalism, now and subsequently throughout the text, Sinclair openly mentions the problems that he perceives as the direct result of a capitalistic society.
Sinclair uses the word "you," but he now also uses the first person pronoun "our" when referring to "our friends." Three potential explanations for this usage exist. The first is reductive in nature; that is, Sinclair is just a mediocre author who makes an error in consistency and voice. Although he is not currently as esteemed as a few of his peers, this is not a satisfying explanation. A different interpretation suggests this as another example of Sinclair's attempt to gain sympathy for the family. Using "our" encourages readers to accept Jurgis and his family as members of their own families. A final suggestion is that Sinclair uses the rhetoric of the socialist movement — where everyone is a "comrade" — in an indirect manner, familiarizing readers with the notion of unity and oneness before directly mentioning socialism. Critics can debate Sinclair's style and use of language, but they cannot debate the fact that Sinclair presents Jurgis as "guileless" and "ignorant of the nature of business." At this point in time, Jurgis has complete faith in the American dream.
colloquy a conversation, especially a formal discussion.
menagerie a collection of wild or strange animals kept in cages or enclosures for exhibition.
drover a person who herds droves of animals, especially to market.
parley a talk or conference for the purpose of discussing a specific matter.
ptomaines substances, some of which are poisonous, formed in decaying animal matter.
isinglass a form of gelatin made from the internal membranes of fish bladders: used as a clarifying agent and adhesive.
pepsin an extract of gastric juice enzymes from the stomachs of calves, pigs, etc., formerly used as a digestive aid.
albumen water-soluble protein.