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Jurgis walks in to the political rally, but he soon falls asleep and is awakened by another man. Suddenly, a young woman whispers in his ear, “‘If you would try to listen, comrade, perhaps you would be interested.” Jurgis is startled and sees that the young woman that whispered to him is finely dressed and intently listening to the man giving the political speech. He is shocked that a woman of such standing would call him “comrade.”
Jurgis focuses his attention on the speaker and is transfixed. He is surprised by how emotional he becomes at seeing the man’s eyes. “It was like coming suddenly upon some wild sight of nature, -- a mountain forest lashed by a tempest, a ship tossed about upon a stormy sea.” Jurgis is confused and disoriented, but cannot help but pay attention to the man.
The man begins to give a long speech that captures the attention of the audience. He uses wild gestures and a powerful voice. He tells of how the workingmen of the Chicago are oppressed and believe that there is nothing they can do to escape the harsh conditions they face. He tells of how women must prostitute themselves to survive and how the institutions of the city, such as government, industry, and churches, do nothing to help. He tells of how children face desperation and starvation.
Jurgis is “trembling [and] smitten with wonder” by this speaker, and everyone in the hall cheers and then is silent as the man continues his speech. The man tells the crowd that a person can be “delivered from his self-created slavery” and that the systems of degradation will never again ensnare him. He goads the crowd into taking action here in Chicago. He tells them that they must rise up against the thousands of people that “do nothing to earn what they receive,” those masters of industry who live in palaces and luxury while their workers starve. The speaker tells the crowd that they must speak with the “voice of Labor, despised and outraged; a mighty giant, lying prostrate.”
Jurgis stands and cheers with the crowd, overwhelmed by his emotion. He hears a voice within him, “a voice with strange intonations that rang through the chambers of the soul like the clanging of a bell.” All of his old emotions come flooding back to him, and he comes to a realization about his state and what has put him there.