Study Guide

The Jungle Chapter 20

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Chapter 20

  • Jurgis sobers up and goes home.
  • Ona is going to be buried the next day in Chicago's "potter's field," a public cemetery for people too poor to afford their own burial plot.
  • Teta Elzbieta is begging around the neighborhood for money to give Ona a proper Catholic funeral mass.
  • Mrs. Jukniene scolds Jurgis for going out and spending the last of their money while they owe rent and the children are all starving.
  • In the attic room, Marija is sitting holding Antanas, and Juozapas Lukoszaite is crying with hunger.
  • Jurgis sits thinking of Ona and how much he loves her.
  • Teta Elzbieta comes home. She has gotten the money for Ona's mass.
  • Teta Elzbieta sits next to Jurgis and pleads with him. She begs Jurgis to pull himself together, get a job, and help the family.
  • Teta Elzbieta is afraid that Jurgis will abandon his family now, as Jonas had done.
  • Jurgis agrees to try, for his son's sake.
  • So the next morning, Jurgis goes out to his fertilizer plant. Yet there is no job waiting for him there.
  • Jurgis tries at place after place to find a job.
  • Meanwhile, Elzbieta is still feeding her children with the money that she has been begging for in Chicago's Hyde Park.
  • Eventually, Jurgis lucks out. He thinks he's found a job at Jones's meatpacking plant pushing carts. (BTW, this is the job that Jonas had before he ran away.)
  • Jurgis appears the next morning to start work under the foreman he spoke to the day before.
  • The foreman apologizes: he's made a mistake. He can't use Jurgis.
  • Jurgis's friends at one of the bars explain to him that he has been blacklisted. After beating the stuffing out of a boss in the yards, does Jurgis really think anyone at the meatpacking plants will hire him again? He's got no chance for another job at Packingtown.
  • He, Teta Elzbieta, and Marija discuss the possibility of moving.
  • Moving would bring them closer to the children's workplace.
  • But Marija's hand is feeling better, and she wants to try and find a meatpacking job.
  • What's more, Marija can't quite bring herself to abandon Tamoszius Kuszleika, even though she only sees him about once a month nowadays.
  • Teta Elzbieta also thinks she might be able to get a job cleaning at Durham's offices.
  • So the family decides that Jurgis should go downtown by himself to look for work and then they can decide.
  • Jurgis goes downtown, homeless and alone.
  • He begs and gets small jobs here and there, but he doesn't find solid work for two weeks.
  • Finally, Jurgis gets a position thanks to a union friend of his.
  • This friend points Jurgis in the direction of a well-meaning, enlightened factory that makes farm implements.
  • This place is called Harvester Trust, and it pays good money. It also has airy, nice workshops, and even a reading room.
  • Even if Harvester Trust seems well-meaning, it's still a factory with an assembly line and lots of big machines.
  • The work is boring and repetitive, and the company employs child workers.
  • Even so, Jurgis is making money again – he has enough to pay his rent and to pick up his coat from the pawn shop.
  • Jurgis wants to start over and to save money for his (remaining) family now that the interest from the house is no longer draining him dry.
  • Jurgis starts to have hope again.
  • Then, of course, Jurgis is ruined again: when he goes to Harvester Trust for work, he finds that the company has been shut down until further notice.

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