Study Guide

The Jungle Chapter 16

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Chapter 16

  • Jurgis goes quietly to be booked by the cops.
  • It takes a while for Jurgis to come to his senses as he's sitting in his jail cell.
  • Soon, he realizes that he has really messed things up now. Ona will definitely be fired, and how will she support herself and Antanas?
  • Jurgis doesn't mind prison so much – it's not like his job is anything better – but he blames himself for the life that he has dragged Ona into.
  • He starts to imagine that Connor won't stop with firing Ona; out of revenge, he'll probably go after Elzbieta and Marija's jobs, too.
  • Without Jurgis, the family will become homeless. They will have to beg for loans from the Szedvilas family, Jadvyga, and even poor Tamoszius Kuszleika. But it won't be enough.
  • The next morning, Jurgis is taken to his arraignment along with a bunch of other prisoners – brawlers and drunkards, mostly.
  • Jurgis hears gossip that they are going to be tried by a certain Judge Callahan, who is known to hate foreigners. So Jurgis is sure that he is ruined.
  • Jurgis doesn't understand the bail system, but he definitely doesn't have three hundred dollars, so he's taken to jail to wait for his official trial a week later.
  • Jurgis spends the entire week fretting and worrying.
  • He passes Christmas in jail, wracked with guilt and regret.
  • What makes all of this worse is that he realizes that he is warmer and better fed in jail than he would be at home; he wishes his family could be in jail with him.
  • Jurgis becomes so outraged at this thought that he finally realizes that he has been wronged by society. He is filled with a sense of injustice and rebellion.
  • The narrator quotes two passages from poet and playwright Oscar Wilde's "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" (1897). This is a poem Wilde wrote after spending some time in jail for the "crime" of being in a gay relationship. It is a beautiful meditation on prison, guilt, and human law. (By the way, "gaol" is pronounced "jail" – the irrationality of the English language strikes again.)

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