| Quote #7
"When you get through working your horses this fall, will you turn them out in the snow?" (Jurgis was beginning to think for himself nowadays.
"It ain't quite the same," the farmer answered, seeing the point. "There ought to be work a strong fellow like you can find to do, in the cities, or some place, in the winter time."
"Yes," said Jurgis, "that's what they all think; and so they crowd into the cities, and when they have to beg or steal to live, then people ask 'em why they don't go into the country, where help is scarce." The farmer meditated awhile. (22.41-43)
Much of Jurgis's plot line draws attention to problems of urban poverty and poor working conditions. Even so, Upton Sinclair doesn't want you to think that the countryside is much better when it comes to labor exploitation. Even the countryside is still dominated by the capitalist search for profit. So when Jurgis finds out that a farmer would be willing to hire him just for the summer and that, after the harvest, he would be unemployed again, Jurgis is outraged. By this stage of the novel, Jurgis is really coming to terms with the negative effects of American society on his life: the stage has been set for his socialist conversion.
| Quote #8
It was like breakers upon a beach; there was new water, but the wave looked just the same. He strolled about and talked with them, and the biggest of them told tales of their prowess, while those who were weaker, or younger and inexperienced, gathered round and listened in admiring silence. The last time he was there, Jurgis had thought of little but his family; but now he was free to listen to these men, and to realize that he was one of them—that their point of view was his point of view, and that the way they kept themselves alive in the world was the way he meant to do it in the future. (25.67)
Jurgis is back in jail for a second time after attacking a bartender. Surrounded by criminals, Jurgis realizes that he is "one of them – that their point of view [is] his point of view." This is Jurgis first experience of what socialist philosophers call "class consciousness." Class consciousness is the recognition that you belong to a certain social group, and that your interests are the same as those of other members of that group. It makes sense that Jurgis would feel a sense of solidarity with criminals before becoming a socialist, because Sinclair is portraying all of these criminals as working men who have just gotten a lousy break from society. Why do you think people fall into lives of crime? Are there other ways of interpreting criminal activity?
| Quote #9
The victim was an insurance agent, and he had lost a hundred and ten dollars that did not belong to him. He had chanced to have his name marked on his shirt, otherwise he would not have been identified yet. His assailant had hit him too hard, and he was suffering from concussion of the brain; and also he had been half-frozen when found, and would lose three fingers on his right hand. The enterprising newspaper reporter had taken all this information to his family, and told how they had received it.
Since it was Jurgis's first experience, these details naturally caused him some worriment; but the other laughed coolly—it was the way of the game, and there was no helping it. Before long Jurgis would think no more of it than they did in the yards of knocking out a bullock. "It's a case of us or the other fellow, and I say the other fellow, every time," he observed. (25.77-78)
The victim in question is the first guy who Jack Duane and Jurgis beat up for his money. Jack Duane has been hardened against the suffering of others. He totally thinks it's a dog-eat-dog world and, if you're not doing the beating, then you will be beaten. Still there's something else that we find interesting about this passage: it's that note about the "enterprising newspaper reporter" who tells the victim's family that he has a concussion and will lose three fingers from frostbite. This reporter is invading these people's privacy so that he can tell the world how they first took the news that their father or husband has been mugged and is still unconscious. The news media is profiting off the suffering of others. This problem of sensational and exploitative journalism is a huge issue today. What do you think the public has a right to know? What limits should there be to personal privacy in the news?