The Jungle

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The Jungle Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Jurgis starts learning English and is taken by a man to become a U.S. Citizen and to register to vote. He learns about the American political system of "Democracy," in which different parties vie for power and buy votes from poor people. He learns about Mike Scully, an Irish Democrat who owns the dump and brickyard in Packingtown and who leads the "War Whoop League," a clubhouse full of supporters and policemen. Jurgis hears stories of rampant corruption. Scully siphons city money and labor for his own enterprises and helps the packers to get away with unsanitary practices, such as making lard out of "bubbly creek," a fetid sewer of drainage from the meatpacking plants.
America once again fails to live up to its mythical image as a land of opportunity where one needs only to work hard in order to succeed, and where every citizen has an equal vote. The corrupt reality of democracy that Jurgis experiences differs markedly from the democratic ideal the U.S. supposedly represents.
Themes
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Jurgis also learns about how the packers bypass inspection requirements, which only apply to meat sold in other countries, making it fine to sell diseased meat within the country. Marija tells Jurgis about the grisly practices in the canning plant, in which diseased animals, covered in boils, are used to make canned meat which is shipped to American soldiers. Durham's other canned products are made of waste materials and doctored with chemicals and dyes to deceive customers.
This is a glimpse into the greedy, unscrupulous practices of the packing industry that the Rudkus family has no choice but to work in. These descriptions were particularly horrifying to contemporary readers of "The Jungle" when it was published—they were eating foods produced from Chicago stockyards!—and resulted in laws regulating this and other food industries.
Themes
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Theme Icon
The narrator recounts an appalling list of maladies that afflict workers in the various industries and visibly impair their bodies. They suffer sores, cuts and blood poisoning, lose fingers, and have their hands corroded by acid. The worst of these are the fertilizer men, whose stench can be smelled for yards, and the men who work in cooking rooms with huge vats of boiling water and sometimes fall into these vats and are made into lard.
Not only do Chicago's industries disregard the quality of the products they purvey, the companies also seem indifferent to the well-being of their workforces. This selfish, cold-hearted focus on the bottom line paints a discouraging picture of the work the family will have to endure.
Themes
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Theme Icon