Upton Sinclair - The Jungle


Jurgis talked lightly about work, because he was young. They told him stories about the breaking down of men, there in the stockyards of Chicago, and of what had happened to them afterward - stories to make your flesh creep, but Jurgis would only laugh. He had only been there four months, and he was young, and a giant besides. There was too much health in him. He could not even imagine how it would feel to be beaten. "That's well enough for men like you," he would say, "silpnas, puny fellows - but my back is broad."


And meantime, because they were young, and hope is not be stifled before its time, Jurgis and Ona were again calculating; for they had discovered that the wages of Stanislovas would be a little more than pay the interest, which left them just about as they had been before! It would be fair to them to say that the little boy was delighted with his work, and at the idea of earnig a lot of money; and also that the two were very much in love with each other.


During the early part of the winter the family had had money enough to live and a little over to pay their debts with; but when the earnings of Jurigis fell from nine or ten dollars a week to five or six, there was no longer anything to spare. The winter went, the spring came, and found them still living from hand to mouth, hanging on day by day, with literally not a month's wages between them and starvation.


Jurgis walked home with a pittance of pay in his pocket, heartbroken, overwhelmed. One more bandage had been torn form his eyes, one more pitfall was revealed to him..... He had to fight often these days - to fight for a place near the factory gates, and now and again with gangs on the street... He never asked where he was nor where he was going; the country was big enough, he knew, and there was no danger of his coming to the end of it....


And the speakers voice broke suddenly, with the stress of his feelings; he stood with his arms stretched out above him, and the power of his vision seemed to lift him from the floor. The audience came to its feet with a yell; men waved their arms, laughing aloud in their excitement. And Jurgis was with them, he was shouting to tear his throat, shouting because he could not help it, because the stress of his feeling was more than he could bear.

Michiel van de Kasteelen