Summary and Analysis
His union involvement leads Jurgis to learn English and to discover politics. Mike Scully is the democratic boss of Packingtown. Scully and his men encourage immigrants like Jurgis to become naturalized citizens and to vote in the local elections. Jurgis and others are shown how to vote and are paid to vote the democratic ticket. Through Scully and the elected politicians, Jurgis learns of the graft and corruption running rampant in Packingtown, which is far greater than the scams he has encountered at the factory. From his co-workers Jurgis hears about some of the most outlandish practices, and with his own eyes he observes the variety of afflictions particular to specific tradesmen. The worst scenario takes place at the fertilizer plant — a place no visitor ever sees because of the stench of the place and its workers — where occasionally a worker falls in and it is impossible to fish him out, so he becomes part of the finished product.
Chapter 9 serves primarily as Sinclair's muckraker chapter. A muckraker searches for and publicizes corruption by public officials and businesses. The problem with muckrakers, though, is that they publicize both real and alleged corruption. The abuses described in this chapter are what gives The Jungle its notoriety; however, the accuracy of Sinclair's reporting is definitely in question.
Sinclair was not writing an exposé of the meatpacking industry. Rather, he was describing the plight of the immigrants. He has taken some incidents of abuses and problems, added a bit of poetic license, and fictionalized the accounts of what he knew was going on. As noted, Sinclair admitted that "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." Sinclair's bias is best illustrated when he refers to factories in Packingtown as the "spoiled meat industry."
Citing the U.S. Rules and Regulations is a journalistic technique Sinclair uses that detracts from the novel. The citation, in the form of a footnote, adds nothing to the development of the plot, characters, or themes; rather, it exists as a means for something to rail against. Sinclair uses this chapter to find fault with regulations and procedures. His famous controversial example of the man falling into the vat and becoming fertilizer is presented as realistic when in all probability it is very far-fetched. Many people reading The Jungle, however, may accept this anecdote as a common occurrence and may remember the novel as a meatpacking industry exposé rather than as a novel about the plight of immigrants.
An important thematic element resonates throughout Chapter 9: The rich own everything and that's just the way of the world. This situation existed in Lithuania and is demonstrated very clearly in Chicago. Another reality of America is the political system, depicted as two parties of elected grafters; politics is as corrupt as the meatpacking industry.
leviathan something huge or very powerful.
scow large flat-bottomed boat with square ends, used for carrying coal, sand, etc., and often towed by a tug.
injunction writ or order from a court prohibiting a person or group from carrying out a given action.
trichinae very small nematode worms found in insufficiently cooked pork that cause trichinosis, which is a disease characterized by fever, nausea, diarrhea, and muscular pains.
Dante born Durante Alighieri (1265-1321), Italian poet famous for The Divine Comedy where he describes the stages of hell.
Zola Émile Zola (1840-1902); French novelist who founded the writing style of naturalism (also called Zolaism) emphasizing the harsh realities of the world.
alchemist person who practices alchemy, a seemingly miraculous power or process of changing a thing into something better.
rancid having the bad smell or taste of stale fats or oils; spoiled.