Summary and Analysis
Summer passes into fall, and Jurgis and Ona are finally able to marry. The narrative flashback has now reached the time of the opening chapter. Unfortunately for the newlyweds, life is still tough and seemingly only getting tougher. Ona seems to be constantly sick, as are Elzbieta's children. And Dede Antanas develops both a dreadful cough and sores, which eventually lead to his death. Jurgis is too poor to pay for a proper burial.
The winter takes its toll on everyone in Packingtown. A young boy who works with Stanislovas loses his ears to frostbite, and Stanislovas becomes deathly afraid of venturing out in the cold. Jurgis must now carry the boy to work. Most men turn to alcohol in order to escape from the harsh realities of their jobs and the weather; Jurgis does not out of respect for Ona. This winter, no one in Packingtown is living; they are all slowly dying.
Ironically, the event which should symbolize love and happiness — the wedding — ends up being the event that pushes the couple further into debt, adding more stress and frustration to their already harried lives. As Jurgis reflects about what has happened to him, he begins to lose some of his innocence.
Chapter 7 illustrates Charles Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest. All immigrants are facing harsh conditions; only the strong survive. Dede Antanas is old and weak and subsequently dies. Stanislovas, representing the young, doesn't suffer a physical death but does suffer an emotional death. Literally scared to death of the weather, Jurgis must physically force him to go to work. It is no wonder that the old and young — who should not even be working in the first place — are the first to die: They are not the strongest.
The weakest die first, and just like dead branches on a tree, are the first to fall to the ground. Sinclair continues his jungle comparison by discussing people in terms of branches: Soon they are shaken from the tree. This tree is also used as an analogy for Lithuania. Unwittingly, Jurgis and his family moved from one jungle into another. In opposition to those who die are those who survive, and survival in this jungle, as foreshadowed in this chapter, means drinking and prostitution. This survival, though, is only a physical one, for the spirit is eventually destroyed. The body is also destroyed — either through alcohol, injury, or disease.
pathos the quality in something experienced or observed which arouses feelings of pity, sorrow, sympathy, or compassion.
vermin various insects, bugs, or small animals regarded as pests because they are destructive or disease-carrying, such as flies, lice, rats, or weasels.
saltpeter potassium nitrate, which is a colorless, crystalline compound used in fertilizers, gunpowder, and preservatives, etc.
hack a carriage or coach for hire.