| Quote #7
These midnight hours were fateful ones to Jurgis; in them was the beginning of his rebellion, of his outlawry and his unbelief. He had no wit to trace back the social crime to its far sources—he could not say that it was the thing men have called "the system" that was crushing him to the earth, that it was the packers, his masters, who had bought up the law of the land, and had dealt out their brutal will to him from the seat of justice. He only knew that he was wronged, and that the world had wronged him; that the law, that society, with all its powers, had declared itself his foe. And every hour his soul grew blacker, every hour he dreamed new dreams of vengeance, of defiance, of raging, frenzied hate. (16.24)
Having been crushed down by "the system" (he's just been carted off to jail for beating up Connor), Jurgis is beginning to think of himself as an outsider to American society. He is full of "new dreams of vengeance." Jurgis isn't smart enough, though, to "trace back the social crime" that has caused all of his pain and suffering. One reason that the narrator seems so determined to regard his characters from a distant, objective standpoint is so that the narrator can add his own layer of analysis to Jurgis's early sufferings. How different might this novel have been if the analysis of Jurgis's life came not from the narrator, but from Jurgis himself? Would Jurgis seem so foreign if the novel were told in the first person? Before he becomes a socialist, how does Jurgis explain his family's suffering?
| Quote #8
They came at last to the house, and to the group of frightened women in the kitchen. It was not over yet, Jurgis learned – he heard Ona crying still; and meantime Madame Haupt removed her bonnet and laid it on the mantelpiece, and got out of her bag, first an old dress and then a saucer of goose grease, which she proceeded to rub upon her hands. The more cases this goose grease is used in, the better luck it brings to the midwife, and so she keeps it upon her kitchen mantelpiece or stowed away in a cupboard with her dirty clothes, for months, and sometimes even for years. (19.46)
Obviously, the idea of goose grease stored for years to help assist midwives birthing newborn babies makes us shudder. We can't even stand to think of the germs. Blerg. At the same time, Sinclair really seems to despise midwives, and to lobby for new, clean, modern medicine. Why is it OK to want modern medicine, but it is not OK to want modern, mass-produced products? What part would modern technology play in Sinclair's future society?
| Quote #9
Already Elzbieta had choked down her tears, grief being crowded out of her soul by fear. She had to bury one of her children—but then she had done it three times before, and each time risen up and gone back to take up the battle for the rest. Elzbieta was one of the primitive creatures: like the angleworm, which goes on living though cut in half; like a hen, which, deprived of her chickens one by one, will mother the last that is left her. She did this because it was her nature—she asked no questions about the justice of it, nor the worth-whileness of life in which destruction and death ran riot. (20.6)
And we thought Sinclair's depiction of Madame Haupt seemed a bit biased! What do you make of the narrator's incredibly condescending description of Teta Elzbieta as "one of the primitive creatures" who "asked no questions about the justice of it"? What kind of a person does Teta Elzbieta represent in this novel? Why might the novel be so profoundly dismissive of her character?