Summary: Chapter 29
To Jurgis the packers had been equivalent to fate; Ostrinski showed him that they were . . . a gigantic combination of capital.See Important Quotations Explained
After the meeting ends, Jurgis finds the speaker resting amid a crowd of people. He asks for more information about the party, and the speaker directs him to Ostrinski, a socialist who speaks Lithuanian. Ostrinski takes Jurgis to his home. They share their experiences in scraping out a miserable existence. Ostrinski explains that wage-earners have nothing but their labor to sell. None of them can obtain a price for it that is higher than what the most desperate worker will take.
Ostrinski explains that there are two economic classes: the small, privileged capitalist class and the large, impoverished proletariat. Because the capitalists are few in number, they can easily work together in favor of their own interests. The proletariat, on the other hand, is large and generally ignorant. Ostrinski explains that workers need to gain “class consciousness” so that they can organize in favor of their interests. In this way, they can avoid the merciless wage competition. Ostrinski calls the current system “wage slavery.” Although America claims to be the land of the free, Ostrinski explains that political freedom doesn’t alleviate the grinding misery of wage slavery. He adds that socialism is necessarily a worldwide movement: any one nation that achieves success will be crushed by the others around it. Ostrinski calls socialism the “new religion” of humanity. He adds that it could also be interpreted as the fulfillment of Christian values on Earth.
Summary: Chapter 30
Jurgis visits Teta Elzbieta to tell her about socialism. She is happy to hear that he wishes to work and help support the family. She even agrees to attend socialist political meetings with him from time to time. Jurgis finds a job as a porter in a small hotel that pays thirty dollars a month plus board. Ostrinski informs Jurgis that his new boss, Tommy Hinds, is actually a state organizer for the socialist party and a well-known socialist speaker. Hinds is overjoyed to find that Jurgis is a comrade. Hinds never tires of preaching socialism in his hotel and elsewhere. Socialists flock to the hotel, so the radical philosophy of the proprietor does not hurt the business he owns. Hinds often urges Jurgis to detail the horrendous filth of the meat-packing plants along with the real recipes for tinned meats and sausages.
Jurgis takes up the socialist cause with a passion. He endeavors to read newspapers, including The Appeal to Reason, and learn all about the political and economic systems of power in America. He becomes angry and frustrated when he cannot sway people to socialism.
Summary: Chapter 31
Jurgis attempts to persuade Marija to leave prostitution, but she explains that she cannot because she is addicted to morphine. She plans to remain a prostitute for the rest of her life.
Jurgis attends a meeting with a magazine editor who opposes socialism but has agreed to listen to some proponents of the movement. Jurgis’s role is to detail the unsanitary conditions under which meat is packed and sold to the public. Nicholas Schliemann, a fierce socialist, explains that the movement wishes to enact public ownership of the means of production. Once the inefficiency of production is eliminated through science and eradication of graft, no worker will be obliged to labor for countless hours a day merely to survive. He can work as little as two hours a day and devote the rest of his time to his personal interests.