by Upton Sinclair
The Jungle Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[Teta Elzbieta] was part of the machine she tended, and every faculty that was not needed for the machine was doomed to be crushed out of existence. There was only one mercy about the cruel grind – that it gave her the gift of insensibility. Little by little she sank into a torpor – she fell silent. She would meet Jurgis and Ona in the evening, and the three would walk home together, often without saying a word. Ona, too, was falling into a habit of silence – Ona, who had once gone about singing like a bird. (14.5)
Everyone is so depressed at the miseries of their working lives that they have literally fallen silent. They don't even have the energy or presence of mind to complain about their fates. This silence seems to be in keeping with the socialist speaker's accusation in Chapter 28 that these factory owners "kill the soul" (28.52). This silence also stands in contrast to the incredible amount the socialist speakers at the end of the novel talk – page after page of speechifying! It's not just that The Jungle is wordy for the sake of style or anything like that; the novel itself seems to connect talking to hope and idealism and silence to soul death.
"I hit him, sir," said Jurgis.
"Say 'your Honor,'" said the officer, pinching his arm hard.
"Your Honor," said Jurgis, obediently.
"You tried to choke him?"
"Yes, sir, your Honor."
"Ever been arrested before?"
"No, sir, your Honor."
"What have you to say for yourself?"
Jurgis hesitated. What had he to say? In two years and a half he had learned to speak English for practical purposes, but these had never included the statement that some one had intimidated and seduced his wife. (17.49-53)
Truly, it doesn't matter what Jurgis says at his first trial. The judge hates immigrants and the guy who Jurgis beat up is an important man around Packingtown. There is no chance Jurgis is going to get away without punishment, but the judge still bothers to observe the formalities. They even bring in a Lithuanian interpreter to tell Jurgis's story of Ona's rape. It's all for nothing: Jurgis might as well not have said anything at all. Why does Judge Pat Callahan listen to Jurgis's statement at all? Why persist in this courtroom theater if the verdict has been decided before Jurgis and Connor have even said a word? Who is this performance of a trial even for?
"Hello, Jack," said the saloonkeeper, when he entered—they call all foreigners and unskilled men "Jack" in Packingtown. (19.53)
The fact that all the foreigners in Packingtown get the same name is sinister. Not only do they have no individuality or status within the factories where they work their lives away, but they also have no individuality in the places where they hang out after work. In this harsh economic system, foreign workers become literally nameless. Jurgis frequents the bars – can't any of the bartenders be bothered to remember a good customer's real name?