The Jungle

Why did the family choose to go to Chicago? What reality did they encounter once they arrived?

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Ona’s brother Jonas had known a man that made a fortune in Chicago, they decide to journey west. When they arrive, they do not understand where they are and ask people on the street for directions to Chicago, not realizing they have arrived. People laugh at them, and they sleep that night in the doorway of a house until a police officer picks them up and takes them to the police station. They are transported to the stockyards, a place with “never a hill and never a hollow, but always the same endless vista of ugly and dirty little wooden buildings.” There are factories with “immense volumes of smoke” pouring from their chimneys and train yards with locomotives and freight cars. The party notices a change in the atmosphere as they enter the city: the dingy color of the landscape, the thickening smoke, and a “strange, pungent odor.” The group cannot quite describe the odor. It is “an elemental odor, raw and, almost rancid, sensual, and strong.” When they exit their streetcar in the part of town known as the Stockyards, or, Packingtown, they hear the sound of ten thousand head of cattle lowing in the distance.