Summary and Analysis Chapter 5



Almost immediately, expenses for the house consume all the family's money. Jurgis still cannot understand why many of the men hate their work, and he has his first encounter with the union, which, at this point, he has no use for.

Throughout the chapter, Antanas is still job hunting. The only opportunity he has to work entails losing 33% of his earnings weekly — payment to the man who found the job for him — and although this is outrageous, he accepts. Once hired, Antanas is forced to partake in the unethical and illegal activities of the meatpacking industry. Jurgis also witnesses and partakes in improper meat-production activities. During this time he comes to realize those who laughed at his faith in America "might be right."

Marija's job is also the result of an unethical practice: She takes the place of a sick woman who had worked at the same job for 15 years. The forelady did not care that the previous employee had worked the job for so long; she only knew that she missed one day of work.


The exposure to the surface-level graft and corruption serves as the beginning of Jurgis' disillusionment. Initially he has no interest in the union: Jurgis has a job and is a hard worker. He is used to fending for himself and does not view joining the union as an investment; rather, it is a waste of money. Later on Jurgis' opinion changes.

All is not what it seems — in the area of home ownership as well as employment — and both are examples of foreshadowing. Initially Jurgis is shocked and dismayed at the illegal and unethical practices in his workplace. In a couple of short years, he learns that the only way he can find economic security within the system is by abusing it.

Although Sinclair's authorial intention in The Jungle is to illustrate the plight of the immigrants and the folly of capitalism, his novel is remembered more for illuminating the abuses in the meatpacking industry. In this chapter he describes the first of many illegal and immoral activities. Throughout The Jungle Sinclair attempts to create a realistic portrayal of life in Packingtown, and for the most part he succeeds. The problem is that it is not easy for readers to discern fact from fiction. Sinclair exercises poetic license in his narrative, yet many readers readily accept his fiction as the literal truth.


laissez faire the policy of letting the owners of industry and business fix the rules of competition, the conditions of labor, etc., as they please, without governmental regulation or control.

Malthus Thomas Malthus (1766-1834); an English economist who held the theory that the world population tends to increase faster than the food supply with inevitable disastrous results unless natural restriction, such as war, famine, and disease reduce the population or the increase is checked by moral restraint.

knave a dishonest, deceitful person; a tricky rascal.

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