Jurgis Rudkus is the novel's protagonist. Jurgis is a Lithuanian immigrant who comes to America with his family to pursue wealth. He meets the harsh realities of the Chicago packing plants and loses most of his family and friends to death and physical demise. Jurgis becomes a criminal and an outcast before finding salvation and purpose in the tenets of the Socialist Party.
Ona Lukoszaite Rudkus
Ona is Jurgis's wife. Though she starts the novel as a housewife, she soon must go to work in order to provide for the family. The hard labor breaks her body, and, after giving birth to her first child, she is raped and beaten by one of the factory foremen. She dies while giving birth to her second child.
Teta Elzbieta Lukoszaite
Teta Elzbeita is Ona's stepmother. She provides house care for the family upon moving to America yet eventually must work in a sausage-making factory in order to earn money to support the family.
Marija is a family friend who joins Jurgis in coming to America. Marija is a strong woman who works in a can-painting factory. After multiple injuries and hardships, she goes into prostitution where she becomes addicted to morphine.
Dede Antanas Rudkus
Dede Antanas is Jurgis's father. Though he desperately wants to work to help support the family, his body cannot withstand the hard labor, and he dies of a consumptive cough.
Tamoszius is the violin player who symbolizes Sinclair's own desire to document the struggles of Packingtown's immigrant community. He is depicted early on as a fiery man, yet becomes worn by the harsh realities of factory life. He and Marija begin a romance but are never able to be together because of financial concerns.
Jokubas Szedvilas is a Lithuanian delicatessen owner. He falls on hard times and is forced to mortgage his shop in order to pay months of overdue rent.
Old Grandmother Majauszkiene lives a block away from Jurgis and his family in Packingtown. She is the first to tell the family of the history of Packingtown and of the bad luck that their house brings upon its inhabitants.
Mike Scully is the leader of the War-Whoop League. He is a local businessman and politician who owns the trash dump and water hole in Packingtown. He is very influential amongst the politicians and the packing house owners because he controls the votes of the working men and the unions.
Tommy Finnegan is an Irishman that Jurgis meets at a union meeting. Tommy has very bad teeth, and he corners Jurgis to talk to him about ideas of spirits and elevated planes of reality.
Kristoforas is Teta Elzbieta's youngest and most adored child. He is crippled with congenital hip displacement and dies after eating a tubercular sausage.
Madame Haupt is a Dutch midwife who Jurgis calls upon to help save Ona's life while in childbirth. She and Jurgis barter over the price of her services.
Little Antanas is Jurgis's first-born son. He dies drowning in a flooded street.
Little Juozapas is one of the family's children. A cripple, he goes to the town dump to scavenge for food. There, he meets a "settlement-worker" who helps Jurgis get a job at the steel mill.
Bush Harper is an associate of Mike Scully. Harper gets Jurgis involved in the political machine of Chicago. He helps Jurgis out of jail on several occasions.
Jurgis meets Jack Duane on two occasions, both times while he is in jail. Jack is a minor petty thief who invites Jurgis into his world of crime. Jurgis sees Duane as a gentleman and a man of the world, despite his life of crime.
Freddie Jones is the drunken young man that Jurgis meets while begging for money. Jones is the son of the Beef industry tycoon. Jones invites Jurgis to his mansion, where Jurgis sees what his own toil buys for the owners of the industry.
Senator Spareshanks is a South Carolina senator that Mike Scully brings in to Chicago to convince the workingmen to vote Republican. The senator vigorously advocates for a laissez-faire economy.
The Jungle Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Jungle is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
There was never the least attention paid to what was cut up for sausage; there would come all the way back from Europe old sausage that had been rejected, and that was moldy and white—it would be dosed with borax and glycerine, and...
They pump meat full of pickling chemicals to rid it of its smells. They remove the bone from a ham, along with its rotted meat, and replace it with a hot piece of iron. They stop labeling meat as One, Two, or Three Grade and instead label it all...