Study Guide

The Jungle Chapter 23

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Chapter 23

  • He starts walking the rounds at the mills and factories (everything except the stockyards) looking for a job.
  • He finds a job ad in the paper and applies even though he thinks it's probably some kind of scam.
  • The man taking names at this place asks Jurgis if he has ever worked in Chicago.
  • Jurgis lies and says he's from Kansas City. He doesn't want to be saddled by his old life.
  • The job all takes place underground: Jurgis is digging the new Chicago subway system.
  • By the way, this system has never really taken off and most of Chicago's public transit trains are above ground (source).
  • This public transit system is the result of some kind backstage wheeling and dealing between a bunch of different big Chicago companies and none of the work is being done by unionized labor.
  • Still, Jurgis doesn't care. He's just happy that he's involved with a new tunnel so the work should be steady for the whole winter.
  • Jurgis rents a room in a nearby tenement and starts to settle down.
  • However, Jurgis also starts up another old habit: he hangs out at the local bars for much of the evening to escape the cold weather.
  • Building underground tunnels is extremely dangerous work, as Jurgis discovers up close and personal (of course – this guy is a ridiculous disaster magnet).
  • Jurgis is walking out of work one night when a loaded railway car zips around the tracks and knocks Jurgis into the concrete wall of the tunnel.
  • He wakes up in the hospital with a badly broken arm.
  • Jurgis has to leave the hospital after two weeks, but his arm is still weak and he can no longer work. He also has no more pay left.
  • So, yet once more, Jurgis finds himself out on the streets in the middle of the Chicago winter.
  • Jurgis goes from bar to bar trying to get warm, but he doesn't have enough money to buy drinks or settle in for an evening.
  • Jurgis is desperately cold when he hears the sounds of a church service going on nearby.
  • He goes in to the meeting to hear an evangelist preaching about sin.
  • Jurgis isn't really interested in religion. He's just looking for shelter from the cold.
  • Jurgis listens to this preacher and starts to feel resentful.
  • Even though the preacher means well, he is comfortable and warm. He's out of touch with the real suffering that he pretends to address with his religion.
  • Jurgis has a few dimes left, so he finally goes off to his lodging house for a bed to sleep in.
  • He can't really afford this, but it is so cold that he would freeze to death if he didn't.
  • The only way Jurgis can make any money at all is by begging.
  • Since he's fresh out of the hospital and pathetic-looking, Jurgis should make a mint.
  • He's up against professional beggars, though, who use makeup to make themselves appear worse off than they are.
  • Some of his fellow beggars are also really, really badly off – much more desperate even than poor Jurgis.
  • So, Jurgis doesn't really stand out among the crowd.

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