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The Jungle

The Jungle


by Upton Sinclair

The Jungle Language and Communication Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

Jurgis was confident of his ability to get work for himself, unassisted by any one. As we have said before, he was not mistaken in this. He had gone to Brown's and stood there not more than half an hour before one of the bosses noticed his form towering above the rest, and signaled to him. The colloquy which followed was brief and to the point:

"Speak English?"

"No; Lit-uanian." (Jurgis had studied this word carefully.)


"Je." (A nod.) (3.1-5)

The reason Jurgis is right to be confident about getting a job even though he speaks no English is that he is not being employed for his mind. To his boss, Jurgis is just a set of muscles. Once he injures himself and can't work anymore, his boss swaps him out for another set of muscles – there is no consideration in the system for Jurgis as a person.

Quote #2

Promptly at seven the next morning Jurgis reported for work. He came to the door that had been pointed out to him, and there he waited for nearly two hours. The boss had meant for him to enter, but had not said this, and so it was only when on his way out to hire another man that he came upon Jurgis. He gave him a good cursing, but as Jurgis did not understand a word of it he did not object. (4.1)

Jurgis is so utterly ignorant that it doesn't occur to him to go inside the door to see if his job is waiting for him. He waits at the door for two hours. Here is proof that, with Jurgis, we are truly starting from scratch: it's as though he is a baby, unable to speak or act for himself, slowly being socialized into the grown-up world. The end result of this process of adapting to the American workplace is that Jurgis goes from being utterly unable to communicate anything at all in English to being able to deceive other people in his union about "Scotty" Doyle. So there you go: the greatest linguistic achievement is the ability to lie.

Quote #3

It was nearly two feet long, printed on calendered paper, with a selection of colors so bright that they shone even in the moonlight. The center of the placard was occupied by a house, brilliantly painted, new, and dazzling. […] For fear that the significance of all this should be lost, there was a label, in Polish, Lithuanian, and German—"Dom. Namai. Heim." "Why pay rent?" the linguistic circular went on to demand. "Why not own your own home? Do you know that you can buy one for less than your rent? We have built thousands of homes which are now occupied by happy families." – So it became eloquent, picturing the blissfulness of married life in a house with nothing to pay. It even quoted "Home, Sweet Home," and made bold to translate it into Polish – though for some reason it omitted the Lithuanian of this. Perhaps the translator found it a difficult matter to be sentimental in a language in which a sob is known as a gukcziojimas and a smile as a nusiszypsojimas. (4.6)

This realty advertisement is one of the only printed messages we have seen in the entire book that bothers to translate its message into other languages besides English. Still, the only reason this advertisement appears in Polish, Lithuanian, and German is because this real estate agency is deliberately targeting recent immigrants who won't know they are being scammed. The only time anyone goes out of their way to speak Lithuanian to Jurgis's family is to cheat them – that is, until the socialists make sure they find a Lithuanian-speaker to introduce Jurgis to the Party.

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