Study Guide

The Jungle Chapter 14

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Chapter 14

  • Now they have family members with experience in pretty much all aspects of the meatpacking industry (Jurgis has worked on the kill floor and is now in fertilizer, Ona works in packaging, Marija has worked in canning and is now in beef trimming, Jonas used to work in the pickling rooms, and Teta Elzbieta makes sausage).
  • So they know all of the underhanded tricks that the packing plants use to repackage waste material to sell to the public.
  • Spoiled meat that has been pickled or smoked will have the bad part cut out. Then it will be sold as lunchmeat or boneless ham.
  • When the whole ham is bad, that's when it gets sent to the sausage makers. It will get chopped up with other meat and then treated with chemicals to cut down the smell.
  • Meat that falls on the floor will be picked up, dusted off, and put back into the grinder.
  • Sausage meat also gets stored in huge piles that are kept under leaky ceilings and are overrun with rats, so it's filled with rodent feces and horrifying germs.
  • Basically, the sausage production process is absolutely, completely revolting.
  • The only way that Teta Elzbieta can stand this work is by letting her mind go dead. She stops feeling anything.
  • In fact, the whole family has largely fallen silent from misery.
  • They realize that it's another full six years before they will pay off the house, and they do not see how they can survive this misery.
  • Jurgis begins to drink every now and again to forget the pain.
  • So now Jurgis has something else to fight against all the time. He is ashamed of himself when he drinks, and when he realizes how much he spends on drinking, but he has so much trouble stopping.
  • Jurgis also starts to resent Ona for keeping him tied down to this awful life in Packingtown. Without a family to support, he could leave like Jonas did.
  • Jurgis still loves his family, but it's not a good time at home.
  • For one thing, Antanas keeps getting sick – he has the measles right now, and he has also had scarlet fever, mumps, and whooping cough.
  • Kotrina does her best to look after him, but they have no money for doctors and he pretty much just has to ride out his illnesses.
  • Indeed, the fact that Antanas keeps getting sick and then recovering is proof of how hearty he really is: he's strong enough to keep bouncing back.
  • In contrast, Ona is growing weaker and weaker. She has a persistent cough (like Antanas's).
  • She also has horrible headaches and depression.
  • Jurgis feels that, by having dragged her into married life with him, he is killing her slowly.
  • Sometimes, Ona falls into these fits of crying that will not be soothed.

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