The Jungle-Upton Sinclair

Signet Study Guide Questions

Literature of Social Criticism


Provide quotes with page numbers for the following questions.


Chapter 1

1. What happens in chapter one? Describe the atmosphere and mood in this chapter.

2. What glimpses of poverty and desperation do we get in this chapter?

3. Who do you think will be the protagonists in this book?

4. What do you think of Jurgis’s maxim, “I will work harder”? Do you think this is a good solution?

Chapter 2

1. Based on events in Chapter 2, what kind of person does Jurgis seem to be?

2. Why did Jurgis’s and Ona’s family decide to go to America?

3. How do they first encounter dishonesty?

4. What difficult experiences did they have in Lithuania, and how did they expect them to improve in America? What are their expectations for their new life in America?

5. List all the adjectives on page 29 that describe the Chicago they saw. How is the quote “the color of things became dingier” symbolic of their experience thus far?

6. Describe the neighborhoods of Packingtown.

7. Describe the significance of the words “blood red” and “fire” in the final description of Chapter 2.

Chapter 3

1. What are Jurgis’s expectations for his new job?

2. What are the “metaphors of human destiny” described on page 37? How is this metaphor continued on page 40?

3. What is the hog-squeal of the universe?

4. What is the purpose of the government inspector? Describe him.

5. What is Jurgis’s impression of the meat packing industry? What is yours?

Chapter 4

1. What are Jurgis’s plans for everyone in their new, relocated family?

2. Describe the real estate agent. What is the family’s perception of him?  What is your perception of him?

3. What is Jokubas Szedvilas’s advice for the family in the purchase of real estate?

4. Why does the family prefer to buy rather than rent?

5. By the end of the chapter, the family is in much anguish over their purchase.  What are Jurgis’s worries? And what are those of Ona and Elzbieta?

Chapter 5

1. Describe the reality of this statement: “the zeal of the people, to see that his health and happiness were provided for.” (57)

2. What is the purpose of advertising today? How does it compare to the advertisements described on pages 57 and 58?

3. The family is learning about credit in America. Explain the system and how it compares to the process of making large purchases in our country today.

4. How does Jurgis feel about his job? How does it compare to how the other men feel about their work?

5. How are unions explained to Jurgis? What is his perception of the unions?

6. Why is Antanas having difficulty getting a job?

7. Describe graft.

8. How does Tamoszius explain the pecking order of the industry to Jurgis?

9. How well is a good work ethic rewarded at the packing plants? How are the strong, hard-working employees treated?

10. What transformation is taking place in the family as they work and witness events around them? How is their “faith in America” slowly being shattered?

Chapter 6

1. Why is it so important to Elzbieta to have a religious symbol in their home?

2. What does Grandmother Majauszkiene tell her neighbors about their house, the history of Packingtown, and work conditions at Packingtown?

3. Stanislovas filled lard cans “till the end of his days.” Predict what you think will happen to him.

Chapter 7

1. Describe the difficulties the family is encountering.

2. What are some of their health issues?

3. What happens to Antanas and why?

4. Explain the comparisons between nature and Packingtown that appear on pages 81 and 82.

5. Describe the winter in Packingtown and how it affects the people, at work and otherwise.

6. What did Stanislovas witness and what effect did it have on him?

7. How were the men “forced” to drink, and how does this further their demise?

8. Describe the imagery of cold as it appears at the end of this chapter.

9. Explain the dichotomy of marriage and death in this chapter. How are these events juxtaposed?

Chapter 8

1. Who has taken an interest in one another? Why is this important to the family?

2. How does Marija handle her money? Is this a positive or negative characteristic?

3. How does her money management affect her?

4. How did Jurgis “understand at last all their bitterness”?

5. Describe “broken time.”

6. Why was Jurgis more willing to join a union when he was approached a second time?

7. How does the union disappoint the family?

8. What effect does the union meeting have on Jurgis?

Chapter 9

1. What differences does the union make in Jurgis?

2. According to Jurgis how is America the same as Russia?

3. Explain Jurgis’s role in elections. Does he understand what he is taking part in?  What exactly is he taking part in?

4. Explain the political system in Chicago at that time.

5. Who is Mike Scully?

6. Describe the corruption presented in this chapter.

7. Describe the health issues outlined in this chapter. Do you think this was unique to Durham’s? Explain.

Chapter 10

1. What financial difficulties is the family now facing?

2. Describe the perils brought by the summertime and heat.

3. What social class does Jurgis belong to? What criteria determine the class system?

4. What are the disadvantages of union membership?

5. Describe Marija’s disillusionment.

6. What does it mean, “Ona was to be confined before long”?

7. Why did Ona’s boss and co-workers dislike her?

8. How are the packinghouses like chattel slavery?

9. What effect did childbirth have on Ona?

Chapter 11

1. What is the function of the Beef Trust?

2. What fears does Marija have about the bank? How reasonable are these fears?

3. Why did Marija wait in line at the bank? How long did she wait? What did she do with her money?

4. What caused the “run”?

5. How does Jurgis justify his role in the elections? Do you agree with him?

6. The soul of Jurgis “rose up in him like a sleeping lion.” What is the essence of his soul?

7. What is the “trap” referred to on page 116 that Jurgis falls into? What are the implications of this situation for the family?

8. Describe Jurgis’s confinement. What is the irony of this, in contrast to Ona’s return to work after childbirth?

Chapter 12

1. What are the results of Stanislovas getting caught in the snow with Ona?

2. What has happened to Jonas? What is the effect on the family?

3. Describe the work experience of Vilimas and Nikalojus. What values do they learn at their work? From whom do they learn the “ins and outs” of their trade?

4. What is Jurgis’s experience returning to work?

5. Summarize the description of the demise of the working man.

Chapter 13

1. Describe the circumstances surrounding the death of Kristoforas.

2. What are the working conditions in the fertilizer plant?

3. Why did the family decide that the boys should return to school?

4. Why did Elzbieta go to work, and what was her job?

5. This chapter begins the book’s comparison of Packingtown to a jungle. Describe the metaphor at the end of the chapter.

Chapter 14

1. What food issues are described in this chapter?

2. Why was Elzbieta’s insensibility considered a gift?

3. “They had played the game and they had lost.” (138) Explain this statement.

4. How and why had Jurgis discovered drink? Describe his constant battle with it. What does he blame his difficulties on?

5. Describe Ona at the end of the chapter.

6. What jungle metaphor describes Jurgis at the end of this chapter? How does this characterization of Jurgis contribute to the feeling that he is now a victim and no longer has control of his life?

Chapter 15

1. What is Ona’s present state of mind? What does Jurgis think about her?

2. How does Ona cause alarm in the house one night?

3. What does Jurgis discover about Ona, and how does he come to discover it?

4. What is his reaction when Ona finally tells him the truth?

5. What do you believe were Ona’s options, faced with her situation?

Chapter 16

1. How are the police characterized?

2. What are Jurgis’s worries about the family’s present situation, and what does he consider to be the worst aspect of his position?

3. Whom does Jurgis blame for Ona’s situation? What kind of person does Jurgis view Ona as? Is he correct in his assessment of her?

4. What does Jurgis believe will happen to Connor?

5. Describe Pat Callahan.

6. What is Jurgis’s court experience?

7. What is Jurgis feeling as he hears the church bells?

8. List the jungle metaphors in this chapter. Do they affect your opinion of Jurgis or other characters in the novel?

9. Explain the poem at the end of the chapter. How does it apply to Jurgis and others like him?

Chapter 17

1. Who is Jack Duane, and why does Jurgis find him interesting?

2. Why were the men in jail with Jurgis not disgraced by their imprisonment?

3. How are the working men of Packingtown like wild animals?

4. What does Jurgis find out about the family’s state of affairs?

Chapter 18

1. As Jurgis re-enters the city, it is black rather than white with snow. What is the significance of this?

2. What things does Jurgis discover as he reaches his house?

3. What is the situation at Aniele’s?

Chapter 19

1. What happens at Aniele’s, and what effect does it have on Jurgis?

Chapter 20

1. What is Elzbieta’s attitude toward life?

2. What does Elzbieta ask of Jurgis?

3. What is Jurgis’s difficulty in finding a job?

4. Where and how does he find employment?

5. Just as Jurgis begins to feel hope, what is the next blow dealt to him?

Chapter 21

1. Who is the lady who comes to see Elzbieta? Why does she come, and what does she do for the family?

2. What is Jurgis’s role as father?

3. Jurgis once again feels hope and is once again dealt a blow. What has happened?

Chapter 22

1. What is Jurgis’s reaction to the news about Antanas? What does he think, and what does he do?

2. How is the image of cows on page 211 a stark contrast to the past three years of Jurgis’s life?

3. Describe the significance of Jurgis’s bath in the stream.

4. What was Jurgis’s demeanor when turned away by the farmer? What did he do?  How has he developed this attitude?

5. Describe the importance of the food Jurgis eats at the farmhouse.

6. What “first” does Jurgis experience when the farmer offers to employ him?

7. Describe the life of migrant workers, both men and women.

8. What does Jurgis do with the large sum of money he earns? Why?

9. What experience does he have when he seeks shelter from the rain?

10. Jurgis considers himself vile. Do you see him this way? Explain.

Chapter 23

1. Where does Jurgis go for the winter?

2. What is his new job, and what “stroke of bad luck” befalls him this time?

3. What is a “sitter,” and what is his function?

4. What does Jurgis feel towards the evangelist and his message?

5. How does Jurgis compare to the other beggars on the streets?

Chapter 24

1. What is civilization, according to Jurgis? Is his world civilized? Explain.

2. Describe the adventure of Jurgis’s life.

3. What are some of the things that he sees and experiences for the first time on his adventure?

4. What do you believe is the purpose of this chapter?

Chapter 25

1. What is Jurgis’s good fortune, and what difficulty does it present to him?

2. Describe the events in the saloon.

3. What is the end result of these events?

4. Describe the lifestyle to which Jack Duane introduced Jurgis.

5. What does Buck Halloran do for Jurgis?

6. What meaning of the word “pull” does Jurgis discover?

7. Although Jurgis has learned many things, he is still naive in some ways. What are some examples of this?

8. What other examples of corruption are given in this chapter?

Chapter 26

1. What do we learn of Elzbieta and her family?

2. What is the Beef Strike, and how did it happen?

3. How does the press become involved in the events of the strike?

4. Who is the “new American hero,” and why is he considered such?

5. What exciting news does Jurgis receive?

6. What kind of racism exists in Chicago at this time?

7. What are the working conditions for scabs? How do they compare to those for regular workers?

8. Why does a second strike quickly ensue?

9. Summarize the descriptions of the city and its inhabitants.

10. Jurgis has now become what he had despised. How did this happen?

Chapter 27

1. What are Jurgis’s new standards of living, and how are they a handicap to him?

2. In light of his situation, why didn’t Jurgis leave the city?

3. What experience almost broke Jurgis’s heart?

4. Jurgis’s encounter with Connor is referred to as an unfortunate accident; he reflects on his luck when thrown out in the rain; he tells an old friend that he’s had hard luck.

5.  Is this how you would characterize recent events?

6. What happens when Jurgis goes looking for Marija?

7. What are Marija’s living arrangements?

8. What news does she have about Tamoszius, Stanislovas, and the rest of the family?  Marija feels that Ona could have made enough money for all of them and should have been allowed to do so. Does Jurgis agree? How can you tell? Do you agree?

Chapter 28

1. What explanation does Marija give for how women get caught up in prostitution?

2. Do Marija and the others blame Jurgis for leaving them? Does he think that he is to blame?

3. What are Jurgis’s apprehensions about going to see Elzbieta?

4. What are the main points of the speech that Jurgis attends? What parts of the speech arouse Jurgis’s interest?

Chapter 29

1. Describe the essence and purpose of the Socialist party. What appeal does this have for Jurgis?

Chapter 30

1. What is Elzbieta’s attitude toward Socialism? Do you think her attitude or Jurgis’s is more representative of many of their class? Explain.

2. What is Jurgis’s experience with his new job?

3. According to one orator, what is the process of economic evolution? How can this apply to the novel as a whole?

4. How has Jurgis changed since his days of working in the meat packing industry?

Chapter 31

1. When Jurgis goes to Marija, does her response to him surprise you? Explain.

2. How does Jurgis keep his life interesting?

3. What is Schliemann’s opinion of marriage? Do you agree?

4. What is the battle between the red and the black?

5. What are the references to religion in this chapter? To what extent do you agree or disagree?

6. What is Schliemann’s vision of society’s future? Do you think it is practical?

7. What evils should not exist in a Socialist society? Why are they considered to be evil?

8. What are some of the inventions and discoveries that Schliemann envisions?  How realistic are they?

9. Describe the ending of the book. How satisfying and/or appropriate do you believe the ending to be?