| Quote #10
All day long the blazing midsummer sun beat down upon that square mile of abominations: upon tens of thousands of cattle crowded into pens whose wooden floors stank and steamed contagion; upon bare, blistering, cinder-strewn railroad tracks, and huge blocks of dingy meat factories, whose labyrinthine passages defied a breath of fresh air to penetrate them; and there were not merely rivers of hot blood, and car-loads of moist flesh, and rendering vats and soap caldrons, glue factories and fertilizer tanks, that smelt like the craters of hell—there were also tons of garbage festering in the sun, and the greasy laundry of the workers hung out to dry, and dining rooms littered with food and black with flies, and toilet rooms that were open sewers. (26.46)
In the middle of the strike, the truly terrible hygiene of the slaughterhouses has gotten even worse, if that is possible to imagine. These kinds of descriptive passages are supposed to evoke the scene for you, to show you, through word pictures, just how awful the slaughterhouses really are. How effective is this imagery? What tone and style do you see at work in passages like these? What might Sinclair be trying to achieve with imagistic passages like this one?
| Quote #11
"What," asks the prophet, "is the murder of them that kill the body, to the murder of them that kill the soul?" And Jurgis was a man whose soul had been murdered, who had ceased to hope and to struggle—who had made terms with degradation and despair; and now, suddenly, in one awful convulsion, the black and hideous fact was made plain to him! There was a falling in of all the pillars of his soul, the sky seemed to split above him—he stood there, with his clenched hands upraised, his eyes bloodshot, and the veins standing out purple in his face, roaring in the voice of a wild beast, frantic, incoherent, maniacal. And when he could shout no more he still stood there, gasping, and whispering hoarsely to himself: "By God! By God! By God!" (28.52)
Here it is, the moment that we have all been waiting for: Jurgis's conversion to socialism. The interesting thing about this revelation is that Jurgis still must cope with pain in his life, but he has now moved past "the degradation and despair" that has murdered his soul. The conditions of Jurgis's life are much the same as they always were, but his feeling about them has become entirely different. So suffering really does seem to be about your point of view, in this account.