From The Jungle
After breakfast Jurgis was driven to the court, which was crowded
with the prisoners and those who had come out of curiosity or in
the hope of recognizing one of the men and getting a case for
blackmail. The men were called up first, and reprimanded in a
bunch, and then dismissed; but, Jurgis to his terror, was called
separately, as being a suspicious-looking case. It was in this
very same court that he had been tried, that time when his
sentence had been "suspended"; it was the same judge, and the
same clerk. The latter now stared at Jurgis, as if he half
thought that he knew him; but the judge had no suspicions--just
then his thoughts were upon a telephone message he was expecting
from a friend of the police captain of the district, telling what
disposition he should make of the case of "Polly" Simpson, as the
"madame" of the house was known. Meantime, he listened to the
story of how Jurgis had been looking for his sister, and advised
him dryly to keep his sister in a better place; then he let him
go, and proceeded to fine each of the girls five dollars, which
fines were paid in a bunch from a wad of bills which Madame Polly
extracted from her stocking.
Jurgis waited outside and walked home with Marija. The police
had left the house, and already there were a few visitors;
by evening the place would be running again, exactly as if nothing
had happened. Meantime, Marija took Jurgis upstairs to her room,
and they sat and talked. By daylight, Jurgis was able to observe
that the color on her cheeks was not the old natural one of
abounding health; her complexion was in reality a parchment
yellow, and there were black rings under her eyes.
"Have you been sick?" he asked.
"Sick?" she said. "Hell!" (Marija had learned to scatter her
conversation with as many oaths as a longshoreman or a mule
driver.) "How can I ever be anything but sick, at this life?"
She fell silent for a moment, staring ahead of her gloomily.
"It's morphine," she said, at last. "I seem to take more of it
"What's that for?" he asked.
"It's the way of it; I don't know why. If it isn't that, it's
drink. If the girls didn't booze they couldn't stand it any time
at all. And the madame always gives them dope when they first
come, and they learn to like it; or else they take it for
headaches and such things, and get the habit that way. I've got
it, I know; I've tried to quit, but I never will while I'm here."
"How long are you going to stay?" he asked.
"I don't know," she said. "Always, I guess. What else could I
"Don't you save any money?"
"Save!" said Marija. "Good Lord, no! I get enough, I suppose,
but it all goes. I get a half share, two dollars and a half for
each customer, and sometimes I make twenty-five or thirty dollars
a night, and you'd think I ought to save something out of that!
But then I am charged for my room and my meals--and such prices
as you never heard of; and then for extras, and drinks--for
everything I get, and some I don't. My laundry bill is nearly
twenty dollars each week alone--think of that! Yet what can I
do? I either have to stand it or quit, and it would be the same
anywhere else. It's all I can do to save the fifteen dollars I
give Elzbieta each week, so the children can go to school."
Marija sat brooding in silence for a while; then, seeing that
Jurgis was interested, she went on: "That's the way they keep the
girls--they let them run up debts, so they can't get away. A
young girl comes from abroad, and she doesn't know a word of
English, and she gets into a place like this, and when she wants
to go the madame shows her that she is a couple of hundred
dollars in debt, and takes all her clothes away, and threatens to
have her arrested if she doesn't stay and do as she's told. So
she stays, and the longer she stays, the more in debt she gets.
Often, too, they are girls that didn't know what they were coming
to, that had hired out for housework. Did you notice that little
French girl with the yellow hair, that stood next to me in the
Jurgis answered in the affirmative.
"Well, she came to America about a year ago. She was a store
clerk, and she hired herself to a man to be sent here to work in
a factory. There were six of them, all together, and they were
brought to a house just down the street from here, and this girl
was put into a room alone, and they gave her some dope in her
food, and when she came to she found that she had been ruined.
She cried, and screamed, and tore her hair, but she had nothing
but a wrapper, and couldn't get away, and they kept her half
insensible with drugs all the time, until she gave up. She never
got outside of that place for ten months, and then they sent her
away, because she didn't suit. I guess they'll put her out of
here, too--she's getting to have crazy fits, from drinking
absinthe. Only one of the girls that came out with her got away,
and she jumped out of a second-story window one night. There was
a great fuss about that--maybe you heard of it."
"I did," said Jurgis, "I heard of it afterward." (It had happened
in the place where he and Duane had taken refuge from their
"country customer." The girl had become insane, fortunately for
"There's lots of money in it," said Marija--"they get as much as
forty dollars a head for girls, and they bring them from all
over. There are seventeen in this place, and nine different
countries among them. In some places you might find even more.
We have half a dozen French girls--I suppose it's because the
madame speaks the language. French girls are bad, too, the worst
of all, except for the Japanese. There's a place next door
that's full of Japanese women, but I wouldn't live in the same
house with one of them."
Marija paused for a moment or two, and then she added: "Most of
the women here are pretty decent--you'd be surprised. I used to
think they did it because they liked to; but fancy a woman
selling herself to every kind of man that comes, old or young,
black or white--and doing it because she likes to!"
"Some of them say they do," said Jurgis.
"I know," said she; "they say anything. They're in, and they
know they can't get out. But they didn't like it when they
began--you'd find out--it's always misery! There's a little
Jewish girl here who used to run errands for a milliner, and got
sick and lost her place; and she was four days on the streets
without a mouthful of food, and then she went to a place just
around the corner and offered herself, and they made her give up
her clothes before they would give her a bite to eat!"
Marija sat for a minute or two, brooding somberly. "Tell me
about yourself, Jurgis," she said, suddenly. "Where have you
So he told her the long story of his adventures since his flight
from home; his life as a tramp, and his work in the freight
tunnels, and the accident; and then of Jack Duane, and of his
political career in the stockyards, and his downfall and
subsequent failures. Marija listened with sympathy; it was easy
to believe the tale of his late starvation, for his face showed
it all. "You found me just in the nick of time," she said.
"I'll stand by you--I'll help you till you can get some work."
"I don't like to let you--" he began.
"Why not? Because I'm here?"
"No, not that," he said. "But I went off and left you--"
"Nonsense!" said Marija. "Don't think about it. I don't blame
"You must be hungry," she said, after a minute or two. "You stay
here to lunch--I'll have something up in the room."
She pressed a button, and a colored woman came to the door and
took her order. "It's nice to have somebody to wait on you,"
she observed, with a laugh, as she lay back on the bed.
As the prison breakfast had not been liberal, Jurgis had a good
appetite, and they had a little feast together, talking meanwhile
of Elzbieta and the children and old times. Shortly before they
were through, there came another colored girl, with the message
that the "madame" wanted Marija--"Lithuanian Mary," as they
called her here.
"That means you have to go," she said to Jurgis.
So he got up, and she gave him the new address of the family, a
tenement over in the Ghetto district. "You go there," she said.
"They'll be glad to see you."
But Jurgis stood hesitating.
"I--I don't like to," he said. "Honest, Marija, why don't you
just give me a little money and let me look for work first?"
"How do you need money?" was her reply. "All you want is
something to eat and a place to sleep, isn't it?"
"Yes," he said; "but then I don't like to go there after I left
them--and while I have nothing to do, and while you--you--"
"Go on!" said Marija, giving him a push. "What are you
talking?--I won't give you money," she added, as she followed him
to the door, "because you'll drink it up, and do yourself harm.
Here's a quarter for you now, and go along, and they'll be so
glad to have you back, you won't have time to feel ashamed.
So Jurgis went out, and walked down the street to think it over.
He decided that he would first try to get work, and so he put in
the rest of the day wandering here and there among factories and
warehouses without success. Then, when it was nearly dark,
he concluded to go home, and set out; but he came to a restaurant,
and went in and spent his quarter for a meal; and when he came
out he changed his mind--the night was pleasant, and he would
sleep somewhere outside, and put in the morrow hunting, and so
have one more chance of a job. So he started away again, when
suddenly he chanced to look about him, and found that he was
walking down the same street and past the same hall where he had
listened to the political speech the night 'before. There was no
red fire and no band now, but there was a sign out, announcing a
meeting, and a stream of people pouring in through the entrance.
In a flash Jurgis had decided that he would chance it once more,
and sit down and rest while making up his mind what to do. There
was no one taking tickets, so it must be a free show again.
He entered. There were no decorations in the hall this time;
but there was quite a crowd upon the platform, and almost every seat
in the place was filled. He took one of the last, far in the
rear, and straightway forgot all about his surroundings. Would
Elzbieta think that he had come to sponge off her, or would she
understand that he meant to get to work again and do his share?
Would she be decent to him, or would she scold him? If only he
could get some sort of a job before he went--if that last boss
had only been willing to try him!
--Then suddenly Jurgis looked up. A tremendous roar had burst
from the throats of the crowd, which by this time had packed the
hall to the very doors. Men and women were standing up, waving
handkerchiefs, shouting, yelling. Evidently the speaker had
arrived, thought Jurgis; what fools they were making of
themselves! What were they expecting to get out of it
anyhow--what had they to do with elections, with governing the
country? Jurgis had been behind the scenes in politics.
He went back to his thoughts, but with one further fact to reckon
with--that he was caught here. The hall was now filled to the
doors; and after the meeting it would be too late for him to go
home, so he would have to make the best of it outside. Perhaps
it would be better to go home in the morning, anyway, for the
children would be at school, and he and Elzbieta could have a
quiet explanation. She always had been a reasonable person;
and he really did mean to do right. He would manage to persuade her
of it--and besides, Marija was willing, and Marija was furnishing
the money. If Elzbieta were ugly, he would tell her that in so
So Jurgis went on meditating; until finally, when he had been an
hour or two in the hall, there began to prepare itself a
repetition of the dismal catastrophe of the night before.
Speaking had been going on all the time, and the audience was
clapping its hands and shouting, thrilling with excitement;
and little by little the sounds were beginning to blur in Jurgis's
ears, and his thoughts were beginning to run together, and his
head to wobble and nod. He caught himself many times, as usual,
and made desperate resolutions; but the hall was hot and close,
and his long walk and is dinner were too much for him--in the end
his head sank forward and he went off again.
And then again someone nudged him, and he sat up with his old
terrified start! He had been snoring again, of course! And now
what? He fixed his eyes ahead of him, with painful intensity,
staring at the platform as if nothing else ever had interested
him, or ever could interest him, all his life. He imagined the
angry exclamations, the hostile glances; he imagined the
policeman striding toward him--reaching for his neck. Or was he
to have one more chance? Were they going to let him alone this
time? He sat trembling; waiting--
And then suddenly came a voice in his ear, a woman's voice,gentle
and sweet, "If you would try to listen, comrade, perhaps you
would be interested."
Jurgis was more startled by that than he would have been by the
touch of a policeman. He still kept his eyes fixed ahead, and
did not stir; but his heart gave a great leap. Comrade! Who was
it that called him "comrade"?
He waited long, long; and at last, when he was sure that he was
no longer watched, he stole a glance out of the corner of his
eyes at the woman who sat beside him. She was young and
beautiful; she wore fine clothes, and was what is called a
"lady." And she called him "comrade"!
He turned a little, carefully, so that he could see her better;
then he began to watch her, fascinated. She had apparently
forgotten all about him, and was looking toward the platform.
A man was speaking there--Jurgis heard his voice vaguely; but all
his thoughts were for this woman's face. A feeling of alarm
stole over him as he stared at her. It made his flesh creep.
What was the matter with her, what could be going on, to affect
any one like that? She sat as one turned to stone, her hands
clenched tightly in her lap, so tightly that he could see the
cords standing out in her wrists. There was a look of excitement
upon her face, of tense effort, as of one struggling mightily,
or witnessing a struggle. There was a faint quivering of her
nostrils; and now and then she would moisten her lips with
feverish haste. Her bosom rose and fell as she breathed, and her
excitement seemed to mount higher and higher, and then to sink
away again, like a boat tossing upon ocean surges. What was it?
What was the matter? It must be something that the man was
saying, up there on the platform. What sort of a man was he?
And what sort of thing was this, anyhow?"--So all at once it
occurred to Jurgis to look at the speaker.
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 had an unpleasant sensation, a sense of
confusion, of disorder, of wild and meaningless uproar. The man
was tall and gaunt, as haggard as his auditor himself; a thin
black beard covered half of his face, and one could see only two
black hollows where the eyes were. He was speaking rapidly, in
great excitement; he used many gestures--he spoke he moved here
and there upon the stage, reaching with his long arms as if to
seize each person in his audience. His voice was deep, like an
organ; it was some time, however, before Jurgis thought of the
voice--he was too much occupied with his eyes to think of what
the man was saying. But suddenly it seemed as if the speaker had
begun pointing straight at him, as if he had singled him out
particularly for his remarks; and so Jurgis became suddenly aware
of his voice, trembling, vibrant with emotion, with pain and
longing, with a burden of things unutterable, not to be compassed
by words. To hear it was to be suddenly arrested, to be gripped,
"You listen to these things," the man was saying, "and you say,
'Yes, they are true, but they have been that way always.' Or you
say, 'Maybe it will come, but not in my time--it will not help
me.' And so you return to your daily round of toil, you go back
to be ground up for profits in the world-wide mill of economic
might! To toil long hours for another's advantage; to live in
mean and squalid homes, to work in dangerous and unhealthful
places; to wrestle with the specters of hunger and privation,
to take your chances of accident, disease, and death. And each day
the struggle becomes fiercer, the pace more cruel; each day you
have to toil a little harder, and feel the iron hand of
circumstance close upon you a little tighter. Months pass, years
maybe--and then you come again; and again I am here to plead with
you, to know if want and misery have yet done their work with
you, if injustice and oppression have yet opened your eyes! I
shall still be waiting--there is nothing else that I can do.
There is no wilderness where I can hide from these things, there
is no haven where I can escape them; though I travel to the ends
of the earth, I find the same accursed system--I find that all
the fair and noble impulses of humanity, the dreams of poets and
the agonies of martyrs, are shackled and bound in the service of
organized and predatory Greed! And therefore I cannot rest, I
cannot be silent; therefore I cast aside comfort and happiness,
health and good repute--and go out into the world and cry out the
pain of my spirit! Therefore I am not to be silenced by poverty
and sickness, not by hatred and obloquy, by threats and
ridicule--not by prison and persecution, if they should come--not
by any power that is upon the earth or above the earth, that was,
or is, or ever can be created. If I fail tonight, I can only try
tomorrow; knowing that the fault must be mine--that if once the
vision of my soul were spoken upon earth, if once the anguish of
its defeat were uttered in human speech, it would break the
stoutest barriers of prejudice, it would shake the most sluggish
soul to action! It would abash the most cynical, it would
terrify the most selfish; and the voice of mockery would be
silenced, and fraud and falsehood would slink back into their
dens, and the truth would stand forth alone! For I speak with
the voice of the millions who are voiceless! Of them that are
oppressed and have no comforter! Of the disinherited of life,
for whom there is no respite and no deliverance, to whom the
world is a prison, a dungeon of torture, a tomb! With the voice
of the little child who toils tonight in a Southern cotton mill,
staggering with exhaustion, numb with agony, and knowing no hope
but the grave! Of the mother who sews by candlelight in her
tenement garret, weary and weeping, smitten with the mortal
hunger of her babes! Of the man who lies upon a bed of rags,
wrestling in his last sickness and leaving his loved ones to
perish! Of the young girl who, somewhere at this moment, is
walking the streets of this horrible city, beaten and starving,
and making her choice between the brothel and the lake! With the
voice of those, whoever and wherever they may be, who are caught
beneath the wheels of the Juggernaut of Greed! With the voice of
humanity, calling for deliverance! Of the everlasting soul of
Man, arising from the dust; breaking its way out of its
prison--rending the bands of oppression and ignorance--groping
its way to the light!"
The speaker paused. There was an instant of silence, while men
caught their breaths, and then like a single sound there came a
cry from a thousand people. Through it all Jurgis sat still,
motionless and rigid, his eyes fixed upon the speaker; he was
trembling, smitten with wonder.
Suddenly the man raised his hands, and silence fell, and he began
"I plead with you," he said, "whoever you may be, provided that
you care about the truth; but most of all I plead with working-
man, with those to whom the evils I portray are not mere matters
of sentiment, to be dallied and toyed with, and then perhaps put
aside and forgotten--to whom they are the grim and relentless
realities of the daily grind, the chains upon their limbs, the
lash upon their backs, the iron in their souls. To you, working-
men! To you, the toilers, who have made this land, and have no
voice in its councils! To you, whose lot it is to sow that
others may reap, to labor and obey, and ask no more than the
wages of a beast of burden, the food and shelter to keep you
alive from day to day. It is to you that I come with my message
of salvation, it is to you that I appeal. I know how much it is
to ask of you--I know, for I have been in your place, I have
lived your life, and there is no man before me here tonight who
knows it better. I have known what it is to be a street-waif,
a bootblack, living upon a crust of bread and sleeping in cellar
stairways and under empty wagons. I have known what it is to
dare and to aspire, to dream mighty dreams and to see them
perish--to see all the fair flowers of my spirit trampled into
the mire by the wild-beast powers of my life. I know what is the
price that a working-man pays for knowledge--I have paid for it
with food and sleep, with agony of body and mind, with health,
almost with life itself; and so, when I come to you with a story
of hope and freedom, with the vision of a new earth to be
created, of a new labor to be dared, I am not surprised that I
find you sordid and material, sluggish and incredulous. That I
do not despair is because I know also the forces that are driving
behind you--because I know the raging lash of poverty, the sting
of contempt and mastership, 'the insolence of office and the
spurns.' Because I feel sure that in the crowd that has come to
me tonight, no matter how many may be dull and heedless, no
matter how many may have come out of idle curiosity, or in order
to ridicule--there will be some one man whom pain and suffering
have made desperate, whom some chance vision of wrong and horror
has startled and shocked into attention. And to him my words
will come like a sudden flash of lightning to one who travels in
darkness--revealing the way before him, the perils and the
obstacles--solving all problems, making all difficulties clear!
The scales will fall from his eyes, the shackles will be torn
from his limbs--he will leap up with a cry of thankfulness, he
will stride forth a free man at last! A man delivered from his
self-created slavery! A man who will never more be trapped--whom
no blandishments will cajole, whom no threats will frighten; who
from tonight on will move forward, and not backward, who will
study and understand, who will gird on his sword and take his
place in the army of his comrades and brothers. Who will carry
the good tidings to others, as I have carried them to
him--priceless gift of liberty and light that is neither mine nor
his, but is the heritage of the soul of man! Working-men,
working-men--comrades! open your eyes and look about you! You
have lived so long in the toil and heat that your senses are
dulled, your souls are numbed; but realize once in your lives
this world in which you dwell--tear off the rags of its customs
and conventions--behold it as it is, in all its hideous
nakedness! Realize it, realize it! Realize that out upon the
plains of Manchuria tonight two hostile armies are facing each
other--that now, while we are seated here, a million human beings
may be hurled at each other's throats, striving with the fury of
maniacs to tear each other to pieces! And this in the twentieth
century, nineteen hundred years since the Prince of Peace was
born on earth! Nineteen hundred years that his words have been
preached as divine, and here two armies of men are rending and
tearing each other like the wild beasts of the forest!
Philosophers have reasoned, prophets have denounced, poets have
wept and pleaded--and still this hideous Monster roams at large!
We have schools and colleges, newspapers and books; we have
searched the heavens and the earth, we have weighed and probed
and reasoned--and all to equip men to destroy each other! We
call it War, and pass it by--but do not put me off with
platitudes and conventions--come with me, come with me--realize
it! See the bodies of men pierced by bullets, blown into pieces
by bursting shells! Hear the crunching of the bayonet, plunged
into human flesh; hear the groans and shrieks of agony, see the
faces of men crazed by pain, turned into fiends by fury and hate!
Put your hand upon that piece of flesh--it is hot and
quivering--just now it was a part of a man! This blood is still
steaming--it was driven by a human heart! Almighty God! and
this goes on--it is systematic, organized, premeditated! And we
know it, and read of it, and take it for granted; our papers tell
of it, and the presses are not stopped--our churches know of it,
and do not close their doors--the people behold it, and do not
rise up in horror and revolution!
The Jungle Chapter 28 - part 2