Economic, Political, Social?
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Much of this chapter has to do with corruption in their new environment. Jurgis realizes that becoming an American citizen means being told how to vote by the union. The packers buy rancid butter, which they oxidize to get rid of the odor. They re-churn it and then sell it. The lamb meat that people often think they are buying is really goat meat.
The men that work in the packing plants are also inflicted with disease. The butchers often cut their hands and have to work with bleeding fingers. They contract disease and sores. Men who work with chemicals often have their skin eaten away. Those that work in the chilling rooms can generally only last five years before severe rheumatism sets in. Anyone who works with cans has their own cuts and blood poisoning is common. A man who works at the stamping machines is always at risk for losing a limb. There are men who work around tanks of chemicals and they sometimes fall in the chemical vats. When they are pulled out, there is “never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting,” and “sometimes they [are] overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham’s Pure Leaf Lard!”