Many authors use cultural, governmental, and social situations to make important statements about the nature of humanity. In The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, the author portrays the intolerable working and living conditions that workers were subjected to. Sinclair’s purpose was to expose the harsh reality of a government-controlled society where each day was a struggle for survival. Workers not only had to compete to keep their jobs, but if they faltered, they were hard-pressed to keep starvation from their door and a roof over their heads.
Sinclair depicted the actions of the governing system as an argument towards socialism. The government’s inability to provide tolerable working and living conditions was used to make a statement of the inhumanity which workers and families were put through. To convey the desperate vulnerability and isolation workers went through, Sinclair centers on an immigrant family whose economic problems are compounded by cultural dislocation. The family’s struggle to survive in Chicago served as the backbone of the story. The main character, Jurgis Rudkus, had a large family to support and could hardly afford to pay for his daughter Ona’s wedding. Sinclair showed how capitalism created disintegrating pressures between his family’s life, cultural ties, and moral values through intolerable working and living conditions.
Literally not a month’s wages between them and starvation,” Jurgis and other working men were under pressure to abandon their families. Women sometimes had to choose between starvation and prostitution. The children had to work or beg before they could receive any schooling. Once out of the house, they quickly picked up the habits and values of the street and new society. Jurgis’s son was eaten by rats when he fell asleep in a cellar where he worked. Even children were forced to hold jobs to avoid starvation.
Likewise, immigrants with peasant backgrounds and migrants from America’s rural regions were especially ill-equipped to survive in the urban jungle due to their stubborn individualism. Jurgis relied on his own strong back to carry his family and cope with inhuman work, but he simply became a gear in the industrial machine, to be discarded as soon as he showed signs of wear. Jurgis went through many tedious and strenuous jobs before being laid off so young and fresh workers could take his place. For periods of time, he spent his days as a beggar, a scab, a hobo on the road, and a petty criminal. Jurgis worked in a meat packing plant for a period of time and was forced into competitive individualism to keep his job and stay alive.
At the plant, some men fell into vats and died due to the machinery. His family had nothing and had to work in unsanitary conditions to avoid starvation. In conclusion, the government’s failure to provide acceptable working and living conditions highlights the inhumanity that workers and families endured. Towards the end of the novel, Jurgis declared himself a socialist and believed he had found the right answers to life in the big city. Sinclair uses this ending to express his belief in socialism. He portrays the importance of humanity by creating a governmental situation in which the lives of workers and immigrants were intolerable.
The situation created an effective statement and was a creative idea.