Study Guide

The Jungle Chapter 21

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Chapter 21

  • The factory closing is no individual person's fault; it's just a problem of supply and demand. They have made more harvesters than the farmers need, so production stops until there is a demand again.
  • Jurgis feels even more despair: what does it matter if the employers are nice guys, if their business isn't thriving?
  • Finally, Jurgis goes out to look for more work. Antanas is crying from hunger, and Madame Haupt is pressing Jurgis about her bill, so Jurgis needs to earn money ASAP.
  • Jurgis spends many days fighting for a place outside the factory gates among the many other unemployed men.
  • He manages to survive on the few pennies the kids bring him from their work in the city.
  • The kids have had their own troubles.
  • An old lady tells Vilimas she is going to report him for not going to school because he is too young to work on the streets (which is certainly true, but still, the family is depending on him).
  • A guy grabs Kotrina by the arm and tries to drag her into a dark basement, which frightens her so much she can hardly stay at work.
  • Finally, on Sunday, Jurgis goes back to Mrs. Jukniene's house to visit the family.
  • It turns out that they may have found a job for him.
  • What happened was this: Juozapas (remember, that's Teta Elzbieta's second-to-youngest kid, now the youngest because Kristoforas has died) was run over by a wagon when he was a child and lost a leg. So he hasn't been able to leave the house very much.
  • One day, though, using a broom as a crutch (now there's a pathetic image), Juozapas left the house and went over to the local dump.
  • He combed through the trash for food, filled himself up, and then brought some home to Antanas.
  • Teta Elzbieta comes home and hears what Juozapas has been eating.
  • At first, she scolds him for eating dumpster food. But when he starts to cry again from hunger, Teta Elzbieta gives him permission to go dumpster diving again.
  • When Juozapas next goes to the dump, a well-dressed young woman stops him and asks him all about his family life and background.
  • She is a "settlement worker" – a person involved in community outreach in poor neighborhoods.
  • She promises Juozapas to come and visit his family.
  • She does: this well-dressed young woman shows up at Mrs. Jukniene's home the next day.
  • She is horrified by the poor conditions they live in and by the blood stains still on the floor from Ona's painful last hours.
  • Teta Elzbieta is glad to have someone to talk to, and she pours out all of their terrible experiences since coming to the States.
  • The settlement worker cries in sympathy for Teta Elzbieta and her family.
  • She promises Teta Elzbieta that, if Jurgis takes a letter from this woman to a certain superintendent at a steel factory in South Chicago, he will absolutely have to give Jurgis a job.
  • Otherwise she, the settlement worker, will refuse to marry this superintendent.
  • Jurgis makes his way to this steel factory.
  • The steel factory is like nothing he has ever seen before: it's incredible noisy, and there is molten metal all over the place.
  • What Jurgis is witnessing is the "Bessemer process," the earliest industrial system for mass-producing steel.
  • There are sparks and furnaces and giant moving pieces of machinery everywhere that Jurgis looks.
  • Jurgis manages to get a job moving the cooling steel rails from where they are poured to where they will be cut into shape.
  • He has to rent a place to sleep in a nearby lodging house to save on commute money, even though it means he gets out of the habit of seeing his family.
  • Jurgis sees several industrial accidents.
  • The worst one is when he sees a couple of guys sprayed with liquid metal.
  • He rushes to try and help them and burns his hand. He has to spend eight days off work recovering, and he fails to help anyone.
  • Teta Elzbieta has finally found a job scrubbing floors for one of the packers.
  • This leaves Marija hoping to find work, since her hand is better. Juozapas is still picking through the dump as often as he can.
  • While Jurgis is home with his hand injury, he's left alone to bond with his son at last.
  • Antanas is a year and a half old, very bright, and really active.
  • Jurgis finds Antanas to be the only source of hope and pride left for him.
  • Jurgis loves the fact that Antanas can't be disciplined. Antanas is strong-willed and never listens to what anyone tells him, which is the kind of spirit you need to survive this rough and tumble world.
  • Antanas enjoys looking at the Sunday newspapers (the ones with the comics) with Jurgis.
  • Antanas starts learning to say random things he hears – including his favorite phrase, "God damn!" (21.25).
  • Jurgis's hands get better, and he goes back to the steel plant.
  • Marija has also gotten a job as a beef trimmer in a smaller packing plant.
  • Jurgis promises himself that he will be calm and careful, and there will be no more accidents.
  • Aaaand, because this novel loves to kill poor Jurgis's hopes and dreams, there is another totally unexpected disaster.
  • Jurgis comes home one Saturday to find the women of the neighborhood gathered in Mrs. Jukniene's kitchen.
  • Jurgis hears Marija crying upstairs.
  • Mrs. Jukniene grabs Jurgis's arm to stop him from going up.
  • Mrs. Jukniene tells Jurgis that Antanas has drowned to death in the street. So, Jurgis's son is dead.

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