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by Upton Sinclair
The Jungle Chapter 23 Summary
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He starts walking the rounds at the mills and factories (everything except the stockyards) looking for a job. He finds a job ad in the paper and applies even though he thinks it's probably some kind of scam. The man taking names at this place asks Jurgis if he has ever worked in Chicago. Jurgis lies and says he's from Kansas City. He doesn't want to be saddled by his old life. The job all takes place underground: Jurgis is digging the new Chicago subway system. By the way, this system has never really taken off and most of Chicago's public transit trains are above ground ( source). This public transit system is the result of some kind backstage wheeling and dealing between a bunch of different big Chicago companies and none of the work is being done by unionized labor. Still, Jurgis doesn't care. He's just happy that he's involved with a new tunnel so the work should be steady for the whole winter. Jurgis rents a room in a nearby tenement and starts to settle down. However, Jurgis also starts up another old habit: he hangs out at the local bars for much of the evening to escape the cold weather. Building underground tunnels is extremely dangerous work, as Jurgis discovers up close and personal (of course – this guy is a ridiculous disaster magnet). Jurgis is walking out of work one night when a loaded railway car zips around the tracks and knocks Jurgis into the concrete wall of the tunnel. He wakes up in the hospital with a badly broken arm. Jurgis has to leave the hospital after two weeks, but his arm is still weak and he can no longer work. He also has no more pay left. So, yet once more, Jurgis finds himself out on the streets in the middle of the Chicago winter. Jurgis goes from bar to bar trying to get warm, but he doesn't have enough money to buy drinks or settle in for an evening. Jurgis is desperately cold when he hears the sounds of a church service going on nearby. He goes in to the meeting to hear an evangelist preaching about sin. Jurgis isn't really interested in religion. He's just looking for shelter from the cold. Jurgis listens to this preacher and starts to feel resentful. Even though the preacher means well, he is comfortable and warm. He's out of touch with the real suffering that he pretends to address with his religion. Jurgis has a few dimes left, so he finally goes off to his lodging house for a bed to sleep in. He can't really afford this, but it is so cold that he would freeze to death if he didn't. The only way Jurgis can make any money at all is by begging. Since he's fresh out of the hospital and pathetic-looking, Jurgis should make a mint. He's up against professional beggars, though, who use makeup to make themselves appear worse off than they are. Some of his fellow beggars are also really, really badly off – much more desperate even than poor Jurgis. So, Jurgis doesn't really stand out among the crowd.
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