Quotes or quotations are sentences, lines, paragraphs, and short excerpts that give voice to the author’s beliefs and ideas discussed in the text. Quotes from The Jungle by Upton Sinclair demonstrates his beliefs as well as ideas about the working conditions in the late 19th century and early 20th century in the United States. Some of the famous quotes from The Jungle have been explained below.
Quotes in The Jungle
Then his look turned toward Ona, who stood close to his side, and he saw the wide look of terror in her eyes. “Little one,” he said, in a low voice, “do not worry—it will not matter to us. We will pay them all somehow. I will work harder.” That was always what Jurgis said. Ona had grown used to it as the solution of all difficulties—”I will work harder!
These lines show him trying to pacify Ona’s worries about their financial conditions before migrating to the United States. He assures her that he would work harder to improve their financial condition. Through these lines, the author foreshadows clichéd idea of the American Dream that if an individual works hard, his condition changes for the better. However, later in the novel, his dreams do not come true due to the capitalist system.
So America was a place of which lovers and young people dreamed. If one could only manage to get the price of passage, he could count his troubles at an end.
The narrator comments that young people and lovers like Jurgis dream of going to America. Therefore, if a person buys his passage to America, it means that he has eliminated most of his troubles, thinking of entering the green pasture where he can earn as much as he wants.
Here was a population, low-class and mostly foreign, hanging always on the verge of starvation, and dependent for its opportunities of life upon the whim of men every bit as brutal and unscrupulous as the old-time slave drivers; under such circumstances, immorality was exactly as inevitable, and as prevalent, as it was under the system of chattel slavery. Things that were quite unspeakable went on there in the packing houses all the time, and were taken for granted by everybody; only they did not show, as in the old slavery times, because there was no difference in color between master and slave.
In these lines, the narrator comments upon the wretched condition of immigrants in the United States. He compares capitalist slavery and traditional slavery. He also claims that even in the land of opportunities, the working class is treated as personal slaves. They are stripped of every equal opportunity and equal wage. The treatment of immigrants is the same as the black; their honor, necessities, and safety are still at stake and factory owners only pay attention to monetary benefits other than sincerely improving the conditions of their laborers.
Under the system of rigid economy which the packers enforced, there were some jobs that it only paid to do once in a long time, and among these was the cleaning out of the waste barrels. Every spring they did it; and in the barrels would be dirt and rust and old nails and stale water—and cartload after cartload of it would be taken up and dumped into the hoppers with fresh meat and sent out to the public’s breakfast.
The narrator explains the wretched and unhygienic conditions prevalent in Packingtown. He argues that a combination of fresh meat with filthy water poses health risks for the people of Packingtown as they get this filthy food to eat as their breakfast. He further tells the readers about the hard task of cleaning the waste barrels. It shows that packers do not care about the health of their employees.
Jurgis could see all the truth now — could see himself, through the whole long course of events, the victim of ravenous vultures that had torn into his vitals and devoured him; of fiends that had racked and tortured him, mocking him, meantime, jeering in his face. …And they could do nothing, they were tied hand and foot — the law was against them, the whole machinery of society was at their oppressors’ command!
The narrator reveals the realization of the hollow American Dream and corruption prevalent under the capitalist agenda. When Jurgis confronts Phil Connor for raping Ona and goes to the court for justice, he sees that the higher authorities and so-called unbiased law protector, Connor, go scot-free due to his influential position in the business and economy sector. The court, instead, punishes Jurgis and sends him to the prison because laws are different for the poor and the wealthy.
There should be no more tears and no more tenderness; he had had enough of them – they had sold him into slavery! Now he was going to be free, to tear off his shackles, to rise up and fight.
In these lines, the narrator echoes Jurgis’s thoughts to the readers, stating his ambition of not succumbing to the capitalist forces anymore. He rots in prison unlawfully and decides to step forward for himself and his community. These lines also portray the rise of socialism as a solution against capitalism.
The one image which the word “Socialist” brought to Jurgis was of poor little Tamoszius Kuszleika, who had called himself one, and would go out with a couple of other men and a soap-box, and shout himself hoarse on a street corner Saturday nights. Tamoszius had tried to explain to Jurgis what it was all about, but Jurgis, who was not of an imaginative turn, had never quite got it straight; at present he was content with his companion’s explanation that the Socialists were the enemies of American institutions.
The narrator stresses the idea of socialism. Although Jurgis does not know about socialism more than he has been told by his companion who happens to work under the capitalist force that the socialist agenda is against American prosperity. The hard work little Tamoszius Kuszleika is putting in educating and awakening people about the benefits of socialism also hints the change surfacing itself through the younger generation against the evils of capitalism.
Jurgis had looked into the deepest reaches of the social pit, and grown used to the sights in them. Yet when he had thought of all humanity as vile and hideous, he had somehow always excepted his own family that he had loved.
These lines tell the feelings of Jurgis when he wins release from the jail and view his family in an unexpected condition. He finds out that Marija became a prostitute and Teta Elzbieta was begging for survival. This gives him a firsthand view of a corrupt system and social injustices at work, but he cannot bring himself to picture his family members in the adverse circumstances.
Memories of the old life—his old hopes and his old yearnings, his old dreams of decency and independence! He saw Ona again, he heard her gentle voice pleading with him. He saw little Antanas, whom he had meant to make a man. He saw his trembling old father, who had blessed them all with his wonderful love. He lived again through that day of horror when he had discovered Ona’s shame— God, how he had suffered, what a madman he had been!
The narrator reveals the eye-opening moments from Jurgis’s life. Jurgis realizes the loss of his wife, child, and father were not natural deaths. They died because of the cruelty and injustices that he has to go through. He cannot protect the honor of his wife and that thought brings him so much pain and distress. His hopes for a better future cannot match the existing reality.
You would begin talking to some poor devil who had worked in one shop for the last thirty years, and had never been able to save a penny; who left home every morning at six o’clock, to go and tend a machine, and come back at night too tired to take his clothes off; who had never had a week’s vacation in his life, had never traveled, never had an adventure, never learned anything, never hoped anything—and when you started to tell him about Socialism he would sniff and say, “I’m not interested in that—I’m an individualist!” And then he would go on to tell you that Socialism was “paternalism,” and that if it ever had its way the world would stop progressing.
The lines describe the response of the public when Jurgis tries to explain to them the importance of socialism. Moreover, this response also records the careless and disappointing attitude of the wage-earners or the working class toward socialism. The working-class keeps on blaming themselves for their poor financial conditions. However, in reality, it is the underlying agenda of a capitalist economy that does not let them thrive as they should have. They think that their hard work is the only key to their better future and the only way for the economy to work.