There are many characters in The Jungle. These characters vary widely in their professions, social status, and economic status. The main character in the novel is a Lithuanian named Jurgis Rudkus. His wife is Ona Lukoszaite, also a Lithuanian. Their son is named Atanas. Mike Scully is a powerful political leader in Packingtown.
Phil Connor is a foreman in Packingtown, 'politically connected', and a man who causes much trouble for Jurgis. Jack Duane is an experienced and educated criminal who is also 'politically connected'. A man called Ostrinski is a half-blind tailor who teaches Jurgis about Socialism. There are also the members of Ona's family, each of whom play minor roles in the story.
The story opens with the feast at Jurgis and Ona's wedding in America, but soon flashes back to the time before they left Lithuania. Jurgis met Ona at a horse fair, and fell in love with her.
Unfortunately, they were too poor to have a wedding, since Ona's father just died. In the hopes of finding freedom and fortune, they left for America, bringing many members of Ona's family with them.
After arriving in America, they are taken to Packingtown to find work. Packingtown is a section of Chicago where the meat packing industry is centralized. They take a tour of the plant, and see the unbelievable efficiency and speed att which hogs and cattle are butchered, cooked, packed, and shipped. In Packingtown, no part of the animal is wasted. The tour guide specifically says, 'They use everything about the hog except the squeal.'
Jurgis' brawny build quickly gets him a job on the cattle killing beds. The other members of the family soon find jobs, except for the children. They are put into school. At first, Jurgis is happy with his...