Study Guide

The Jungle Chapter 12

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Chapter 12

  • Jurgis lies in bed for three weeks before deciding that he is healed and he has to go back to work.
  • His boss is willing to take him back, and Jurgis manages to work almost a full day before he has to be led, crying, to a streetcar to go home.
  • Finally, the family calls a doctor. It turns out that Jurgis hasn't just sprained his ankle – his tendon has been twisted out of place. He needs another two months of bed rest for it to heal.
  • There is a heavy blizzard three days later. Jonas, Marija, Ona, and Stanislovas go to work together.
  • Ona and Stanislovas come back at noon. Neither of them could get through the snowdrifts, and Stanislovas has gotten frostbite on several of his fingers.
  • Jurgis beats Stanislovas the next morning to make him go out again into the cold the next morning. They cannot afford to have Stanislovas lose his job.
  • This disastrous day has two results for Stanislovas: he loses the use of three of his fingers from the frostbite, and Jurgis has to beat him every morning to make him go out to work during the winter.
  • Jurgis has become so bad-tempered that he beats Stanislovas cruelly, at least until it makes Ona cry.
  • Jurgis has lost his appetite and will not eat. He decides it's better anyway, because he knows they have practically no savings left.
  • Jonas also disappears. One Saturday, he doesn't come home, and they never see him again.
  • Jonas's supervisor says he collected his week's pay and left.
  • The family can't be sure if that's true, because sometimes the meatpacking plants won't tell the families the truth if one of their workers falls into the rendering tanks and gets processed into lard and fertilizer (!!!!). (This practice is first described in Chapter 9.)
  • Still, they are pretty sure that Jonas just got fed up and left – how could he want to stay at his terrible job? It's not like he's enjoying a decent home life, with the cold and the crying children.
  • So they have no choice but to borrow more money from Marija, who is once again putting off her dreams of marriage. They are even borrowing money from Tamoszius Kuszleika.
  • So the family decides that two more of the children have to enter the work force. The next oldest of Teta Elzbieta's children is a thirteen-year-old girl, Kotrina, who helps around the house.
  • But Teta Elzbieta also has two smart sons whom they decide to send into the working world: Vilimas (eleven years old) and Nikalojus (ten years old).
  • Vilimas and Nikalojus both enter the working world as paper boys. It takes them a long time to figure out which papers they should sell and how they could make their money – though they aren't pulling in much of a profit.
  • Ona is growing thinner and paler, and she is distressed that Jurgis isn't noticing how much she has changed. Jurgis has no idea why she is sometimes angry with him.
  • In late April, Jurgis gets the doctor's go-ahead to return to work.
  • Jurgis has to rejoin the unemployed men waiting outside the factory for a job.
  • Now he is worried: he is no longer the muscular guy he was two years ago. He can't be confident that he will be given preference for a job.
  • Jurgis is eager for a job, and refuses to fall into despair. He doesn't do what so many of his unemployed fellows do, which is to hit the bars everyday.
  • Even so, there just isn't work anywhere. He tries to use his union connections, and even that gets Jurgis nowhere.
  • What makes Jurgis bitter is that it is the system itself that has drained his energy and muscle – when he was fresh from Lithuania, he got hired right away, but now he's damaged goods, and the same factory that destroyed his health won't hire him back again.
  • The only way that an unskilled laborer can make any money is if he refuses to support his family and just looks to feed himself.

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