Study Guide

The Jungle Chapter 6

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Chapter 6

  • Jurgis and Ona are in love, and they can't wait to get married.
  • Still, Teta Elzbieta insists that they hold a proper wedding feast, even if their family is poor.
  • Otherwise, they will have given up all of their home country traditions.
  • They are certain that the cost of the wedding feast will be returned at the feast, but they aren't sure how to raise enough upfront money to hold it in the first place.
  • Ona begins to consider getting a job.
  • Then, something awful happens that makes all of their new security fall apart.
  • There is another Lithuanian family living nearby, the Majauzkis family.
  • Grandmother Majauszkiene says that her house, which is fifteen years old, has been built by a company that makes all of its profits cheating poor people.
  • They build houses on the cheap, without caring about anything except the outside appearance, and then mark up the cost thirty times over.
  • The whole point of this real estate scam is to attract people who have just enough money for the huge down payment, but not enough to keep up with the monthly payments.
  • Once they miss one monthly payment, the whole family will be evicted.
  • And then the company will be able to sell the house again, to another poor family, for another huge down payment.
  • There have been wave after wave of different nationalities coming to Packingtown to work for these factories: first the Germans, then the Irish, then the Polish, then the Lithuanians, then the Slovaks.
  • Each wave of immigrants only stays until the factory managers find another group willing to work for less.
  • They attract people from different European countries by spreading stories in those countries about better wages and higher quality of life.
  • What they don't tell you is that, yeah, the pay is better in America than it is in Lithuania, but the cost of living is much, much higher. So that money doesn't go as far as it would in the Old Country.
  • So, there have been several families (one German, one Irish, and one Bohemian a.k.a. from eastern Europe) who have lived in Jurgis's house before they moved in. None of these families have been able to keep up their payments, and they have all been evicted.
  • What's more, every family that has lived in that house has had at least one member who has caught tuberculosis.
  • Grandmother Majauszkiene continues her list of horrors: she points out that children in this area often get sick because they have to go to work so young.
  • (In fact, the family has been thinking of sending Stanislovas to the factories, but he is only thirteen.)
  • The law may say you can only start work at sixteen, but there is no enforcement, and the meatpacking plants are always happy to hire kids who will do the same work as an adult for a third of the money.
  • The family members hearing all of this are shocked – they don't really understand about tuberculosis, but they have noticed that Antanas has been coughing solidly for the last two weeks.
  • The worst thing that Grandmother Majauszkiene has to tell them is about interest: she informs them that their monthly payment is $12 not including interest.
  • They had no idea that their payments would also include interest on the money they still owe (a colossal $12,000).
  • They bring their house deed to Grandmother Majauszkiene to examine, and she points out one line that they had missed, demanding 7% monthly interest.
  • So, the upshot is that they don't just have to pay $12 per month; they have to pay $7 on top of that.
  • The family begins to cry out in agony: they are sure they are ruined.
  • The whole family spends the evening weeping and protesting, but the next morning, they still have to go to work.
  • They have no choice: Ona has to get a job, and so does thirteen-year-old Stanislovas. Jurgis agrees: they all have to make sacrifices now.
  • Marija has a connection to a girl at Brown's, so they manage to arrange a place for Ona in the wrapping department at the packing plant.
  • Jurgis isn't happy about it because Ona will be working in the basement, but at least the work will just be sewing, and thus pretty easy.
  • Meanwhile, Teta Elzbieta takes Stanislovas to a priest to get his age certified as two years higher than it actually is.
  • Stanislovas gets a job manning a machine that sprays lard into cans for selling.
  • The person who hires him asks him how old he is, Stanislovas says sixteen, and that's that – the company feels that it has done its legal duty, even though Stanislovas is clearly still a kid.
  • And with that, Stanislovas's fate is decided: he will be uncomfortable, and he will work hard year after year; he will never see the sun during the week, and he will never learn anything new.
  • But Jurgis and Ona are still optimistic. Their hope for the future isn't gone – yet.

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