Study Guide

The Jungle Chapter 15

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Chapter 15

  • Starting in summer, every time Ona has these hysterical crying fits, she promises Jurgis that it will never happen again.
  • Winter comes and, with it, the Christmas rush. Marija, Elzbieta, and Ona have to work fifteen or sixteen hours a day.
  • It's so exhausting that they can barely crawl into bed at night.
  • One night just before Thanksgiving, there is a huge snowstorm.
  • Jurgis has two drinks at a bar before going home and is struggling with his growing alcoholism.
  • Very early in the morning, Teta Elzbieta wakes him to tell him that Ona hasn't come home that night.
  • Marija, the children, and especially Stanislovas start to cry from fright – there is a deep blizzard outside, and they think she might have died in the cold.
  • Jurgis runs to the stockyards. He doesn't hear of any accidents on the way, and he finds that Ona did actually leave work the night before.
  • Ona comes into Jurgis's sight through the snow just as the factories start opening.
  • She falls into Jurgis's arms and explains that she spent the night with Jadvyga (that friend of hers from Chapter 1) because it was too cold to go home the night before.
  • Jurgis is so relieved to see her that he doesn't press any further.
  • For the rest of December before Christmas, Jurgis carries Ona to work in the mornings and meets her in the evenings to escort her home.
  • Just before the holidays, Marija and Teta Elzbieta come home at midnight saying that Ona left work before them.
  • The night isn't particularly cold or snowy, so no one can figure out why Ona has not come home yet.
  • They wake Jurgis to explain that Ona is mysteriously absent.
  • He assumes that Ona is staying with Jadvyga and decides to go to Jadvyga's apartment in the morning.
  • (There's a side note here explaining that Jadvyga has returned to live with her mother and sisters because her fiancé, Mikolas, has had his hand amputated because of persistent infection. They no longer plan to get married.)
  • Jurgis knocks on the door and one of Jadvyga's sisters answers.
  • She tells him that Ona hasn't been here – in fact, Ona has never been there, not even the night a month before when she claimed to have stayed over with Jadvyga.
  • Jurgis is totally dazed. He has no idea where Ona could be.
  • Jurgis goes to Ona's factory and finds that Ona's boss also isn't in.
  • Apparently, there has been some kind of problem with the streetcars, and no one from the city center has been able to get out to Packingtown.
  • Jurgis protests that Ona has never been to downtown Chicago.
  • The man who Jurgis is talking to seems to know something about Ona's whereabouts, but he won't say.
  • The man asks Jurgis, "How should I know where your wife goes?" (15.41).
  • Around noon, Jurgis asks at the police station if anyone has seen Ona. He eventually decides to head home and find her there.
  • Jurgis sees that the streetcars are running again.
  • He notices someone wearing Ona's distinctive hat get off a streetcar a few blocks away from their house.
  • He follows her carefully, suddenly suspicious about where she has been.
  • Ona enters the house, and Jurgis bursts in five minutes later.
  • Teta Elzbieta shushes Jurgis and tells him that Ona is asleep, that she has been sick, and that she has been wandering the streets all night in a daze.
  • Teta Elzbieta lies to Jurgis. She tells him that Ona came in soon after Jurgis left in the morning, and that she has been in bed ever since.
  • Jurgis walks straight into the bedroom and asks Ona where she has been.
  • Ona tries to repeat Teta Elzbieta's lie about Ona's sickness.
  • Jurgis tells her outright that she is lying to him. He knows that she has been downtown – he saw her get off the streetcar.
  • Ona begins to cry hysterically (again).
  • Teta Elzbieta comes in and tries to calm Ona, but Jurgis sends her out again.
  • Ona falls on the floor and appears to be convulsing. Jurgis thinks Ona might be dying.
  • Eventually, Ona reaches for Jurgis and begs him to have faith in her: she is trying to do the right thing. Jurgis should stop asking her where she is going; it will be better if he doesn't know.
  • She tells him that she has been to Miss Henderson's house downtown.
  • She continues to explain: her boss, Connor, warned her that he would make sure no one in her family could get a job in Packingtown if Ona didn't sleep with him.
  • This was two months before today.
  • After raping Ona in the hallway of her factory, Connor forced Ona to go to Miss Henderson's brothel.
  • Connor has been blackmailing Ona into becoming a prostitute after her hours as a factory laborer so that Jurgis and Marija can keep their jobs.
  • Ona has tried to keep it from Jurgis, especially since it would all have been over soon. She thinks he would have let her stop prostituting herself as her pregnancy continued because she is "getting ugly" (15.101).
  • But now that Jurgis knows, Ona is afraid that Jurgis will go and kill Connor and they will all be ruined.
  • Jurgis walks out of the house and runs to the nearest streetcar to go to Ona's factory.
  • Jurgis finds Connor, the boss of the people who load up the factory's products for shipment.
  • Jurgis leaps on top of Connor and starts to strangle him. He bashes Connor's head against the floor.
  • As the surrounding workers start to pull Jurgis off Connor, he bites Connor's cheek out of rage.
  • Finally, they manage to choke Jurgis to unconsciousness and drag him off to the police station.

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