The Jungle

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Themes and Colors
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
Labor Rights and Socialism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Jungle, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Theme Icon

The Jungle is as an exposé of the horrific working conditions and unsanitary conditions in Chicago's meatpacking industry. Sinclair's grotesque descriptions of conditions and procedures in the meatpacking plant led to subsequent reforms in food safety regulation. From the killing beds to the fertilizer plant, the meatpacking plant is portrayed as a Hell on Earth, a place of blistering cold and burning heat, a place where a man might fall unnoticed into a boiling vat and be turned into canned food. Sinclair uses grotesque descriptions of food and diseased meat to reveal the disregard company owners have for the safety of American citizens. He also portrays the grotesque physical harm done to workers, who lose fingers, cut themselves and get blood poisoning, have their skin eroded by acid, and lose limbs under highly dangerous working conditions. Sinclair uses the industrialized brutality towards animals in the meatpacking plant as a symbol of the industrialized brutality towards workers. Like the animals, workers are "processed" for every last bit of energy and then discarded when they are no longer useful.

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The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Quotes in The Jungle

Below you will find the important quotes in The Jungle related to the theme of The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry.
Chapter 3 Quotes

They use everything about the hog except the squeal.

Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to the meatpacking plant's methods: it takes live animals and turns them into household products: the hair is used for brushes, the skin for lampshades, the meat for eating, etc. The real horror of the meatpacking plant is its capitalistic efficiency: governed by the law of maximizing profits, the owners of the plant have used their ingenuity to build machines that turn the pig from a living animal into a series of products. As we come to recognize, the plant's owners also use their machines and their business to turn human beings--their workers--into similar objects to be exploited and then thrown away.

It's worth thinking more closely about the notion of "using everything but the scream." Sinclair's point seems to be that factories conceal the true brutality of their methods: consumers have no idea that live pigs are brutally killed, or that workers are horribly exploited. By writing his book, Sinclair hopes to reveal "the scream" to his readers.


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Chapter 14 Quotes

With one member trimming beef in a cannery, and another working in a sausage factory, the family had a first-hand knowledge of the great majority of Packingtown swindles. For it was the custom, as they found, whenever meat was so spoiled that it could not be used for anything else, either to can it or else to chop it up into sausage. With what had been told them by Jonas, who had worked in the pickle rooms, they could now study the whole of the spoiled-meat industry on the inside, and read a new and grim meaning into that old Packingtown jest—that they use everything of the pig except the squeal.

Related Characters: Jurgis Rudkus, Ona Lukoszaite, Marija Berczynskas, Teta Elzbieta Lukoszaite, Jonas
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

By this point in the novel, Jurgis's family is working in a variety of different industries, all concerned with processing or selling meat in some way. Because they work in different meatpacking capacities, the family is able to see how disgusting most meat sold to the public really is: how unsanitary the factories are, and how much disease is spread by the dirtiness of the plants.

The passage reinforces the family's disillusionment with America and American industry. At first, Jurgis was amused when the factory owners told him that their facilities used every part of the pig except the squeal. As we now realize, the factory's boast is true--because businessmen are so devoted to efficiency, they sacrifice all morality and hygiene. What initially seemed like a good policy for a factory turns out to be a subtle admission of its disgusting, slave-like conditions.

Chapter 15 Quotes

It was all—it was their plot—Miss Henderson's plot. She hated me. And [Phil Connor]—he wanted me. He used to speak to me—out on the platform. Then he began to—to make love to me. He offered me money. He begged me—he said he loved me. Then he threatened me. He knew all about us, he knew we would starve. He knew your boss—he knew Marija's. He would hound us to death, he said—then he said if I would—if I —we would all of us be sure of work—always. Then one day he caught hold of me—he would not let go—he—he—

Related Characters: Ona Lukoszaite (speaker), Jurgis Rudkus, Ona Lukoszaite, Marija Berczynskas, Phil Connor, Miss Henderson
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jurgis learns some unpleasant truths about his family. His wife, Ona, has been sleeping with her boss, Phil Connor, a powerful businessman. Connor knows that Ona is married, but he forces her to spend time with him by claiming that he can ensure that Ona's entire family will remain employed, and threatening to have them all fired if she rejects him. Connor is extremely abusive to Ona, but she feels that she has no choice: she'll take care of her family by any means necessary, even it means betraying her husband and sacrificing her own bodily autonomy and dignity.

The passage illustrates the full extent of the immigrants' misery. The factory owns the workers' labor, 16 hours a day. For women like Ona, businessmen like Connor control their sexuality, too. Terrified of poverty, people like Ona are forced to bargain with their bodies--they know of no other way to survive.

Chapter 16 Quotes

They put him in a place where the snow could not beat in, where the cold could not eat through his bones; they brought him food and drink—why, in the name of heaven, if they must punish him, did they not put his family in jail and leave him outside—why could they find no better way to punish him than to leave three weak women and six helpless children to starve and freeze? That was their law, that was their justice!

Related Characters: Jurgis Rudkus, Ona Lukoszaite, Marija Berczynskas, Teta Elzbieta Lukoszaite, Antanas Rudkus
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

Jurgis is thrown in jail for beating up Phil Connor, the businessman who's been abusing his wife in return for keeping the family employed. Jurgis is furious when he realizes that, all things considered, jail isn't such a bad place to be: he's warm and dry, and he gets food and water. Jurgis wonders why his wife and children haven't been sent to jail in his place--surely such an arrangement would be more "just" than their current situation.

The passage underscores the social injustices of Jurgis's world. On the surface of things, it's the "right" thing to send Jurgis to jail for violence. And yet courts can only go so far in enforcing justice: the lawmen who send Jurgis to jail know nothing of his starving wife, Connor's corruption, etc. Society's idea of justice is, it must be said, unjust.

Chapter 20 Quotes

Out in the saloons the men could tell him all about the meaning of it; they gazed at him with pitying eyes—poor devil, he was blacklisted!...He was condemned and sentenced, without trial and without appeal; he could never work for the packers again—he could not even clean cattle pens or drive a truck in any place where they controlled.

Related Characters: Jurgis Rudkus
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

Jurgis tries to pull himself together--after Ona's death, he returns to the meatpacking plant where he used to work. But instead of finding work, Jurgis learns that he's been blacklisted from the plant: because he beat up Phil Connors (for abusing his wife), Connors has pulled some strings to ensure that Jurgis will never get a job in the industry again.

The passage illustrates American injustice at its most appalling. Phil Connors abused Ona for a long time, causing the family tremendous misery. Connors gets off scot-free, while Jurgis gets sent to prison and Ona dies--all because Phil is rich and American. And now Jurgis is too desperate for work to stop and realize just how outrageous his situation really is.