Study Guide

The Jungle Chapter 17

By Upton Sinclair

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Chapter 17

  • Jurgis spends the morning hoping for visitors, but no one comes.
  • Another prisoner is let into his cell a bit later on.
  • The prisoner is a lively young guy who comments on the awful state of the mattress and the smell in the cell.
  • Jurgis admits that the smell is coming from him – the reek of fertilizer doesn't wash off, and it's gotten into his clothes.
  • The prisoner is surprised; he's never had a cellmate from the stockyards before.
  • Jurgis explains that he's in jail because he hit his boss. His boss "treated [Jurgis] mean" (17.25).
  • The prisoner responds that he's a "cracksman" – someone who brakes into safes. But he's actually in jail for disturbing the peace, since the cops haven't found any evidence against him.
  • Jurgis is astonished: the guy looks young, well put-together, and gentlemanly.
  • The prisoner introduces himself as Jack Duane.
  • Jurgis has never spoken to an educated man before, and he is interested in spite of himself.
  • Jack Duane was a college kid studying electrical engineering when his father killed himself because of some business failure.
  • Duane tried to help his mother and family by selling an invention of his, but he was cheated out of the patent by a big company and ended up losing everything.
  • So Duane wound up skipping town, having learned that family is mostly a burden on a man.
  • Jack Duane introduces Jurgis to all of his fellow prisoners.
  • These criminals are outcasts, but they are also the products of a society that thrives on inequality and exploitation of other people.
  • Jurgis doesn't hear from his family before his trial a week later.
  • Jack Duane gives Jurgis an address where he can be reached, and promises he'll help Jurgis out one day if he can.
  • When Jurgis arrives at the courtroom, he sees Teta Elzbieta and Kotrina but not Ona, and he doesn't know what her absence means.
  • Connor walks into the room and Jurgis almost leaps for him again, but a cop holds him back.
  • Connor testifies that he fired Jurgis's wife for rudeness, and half an hour later, Jurgis attacked him.
  • Jurgis tries to explain through an interpreter that Connor sexually harassed and raped his wife.
  • Judge Callahan cuts him off and won't listen; he asks why Jurgis's wife didn't complain if she didn't want to have sex with Connor.
  • Judge Callahan turns to Connor and asks if this story is true.
  • Connor (of course) says that it's not true at all.
  • Judge Callahan believes Connor (without any proof at all!) and sentences Jurgis to thirty days in jail plus costs. (These costs are Connor's legal costs – so Jurgis now has to pay for the trial that put him in jail.)
  • Jurgis is sent to a prison for smalltime offenders and spends his days breaking rocks.
  • After ten days, he finally gets a visitor from his family.
  • It's Stanislovas, and he comes bearing awful news:
  1. Ona is in bed and can't go to work.
  2. Marija has cut her hand badly and it's getting infected. The company doctor has told her she may have to have her hand amputated.
  3. They are starving, they can't get credit at the local store anymore, and they have missed the rent and interest payment for their house.
  4. The Sunday before, there was a heavy blizzard, and Stanislovas couldn't go to work.
  • Jurgis accuses Stanislovas of not even trying to get to work because of his fear of the cold.
  • Stanslovas promises that he did try, but neither he nor Elzbieta could walk through the snow.
  • In desperation, Ona also tried to struggle through the snow to her old job, but Miss Henderson refuses to employ Ona any more. And Ona is so weak that she can't find anything else.
  • Stanislovas's boss also won't take him back because Stanislovas's boss is friends with Connor.
  • So Stanislovas and the two younger boys all go into the city to sell newspapers – along with Kotrina, who is new to the workforce.
  • Teta Elzbieta has also lost her job, because the sausage factory has shut down for the slow season.
  • So Teta Elzbieta has been begging from house to house.
  • Jurgis cannot help them, and he cannot get out of prison for another three weeks.
  • So Stanislovas has to walk away.
  • Jurgis reels at all of this terrible news.

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