The Rudkus family arrived from Lithuania to find Chicago as a city in which justice and honor, women’s bodies and men’s souls, were for sale in the marketplace, and human beings writhed and fought and fell upon each other like wolves in the pit, in which lusts were raging fires, and men were fuel, and humanity was festering and stewing and wallowing in its own corruption. (Pg.
165) The city, during the time span of the novel, was truly a jungle-like society in which Upton Sinclair found much fault and great room for improvement. Sinclair perceived the problem in American society to be the reign of capitalism. In The Jungle, he presented the reader with the Rudkus family; who encountered a great deal of strife and anguish, through which the evils of American capitalism were portrayed. Upton Sinclair strongly believed in the power of the Socialist party as means of reform, so that the working class would finally have a fair chance of survival against the harsh realms of society. By havocking America’s supposed capitalist induced problems upon Jurgis and his family, Upton Sinclair used The Jungle as means of socialist promotional propaganda. The Rudkus family met myriads of horrific occurrences during their struggle in Chicago.
The time when the family came to the United States was a period of appalling conditions for the working class. At this phase of history there were practically no workplace safety regulations at all. Employers were free to dictate work conditions as they saw fit for their own personal welfare. Nor were there social safety nets such as workman’s compensation, welfare, or unemployment insurance.
Also, if a person was seriously injured on the job to the point that he was prevented from working, he was simply out of work without any tolerance of the injured inquiring of his job being held during recovery. Courts at this time were solidly pro-business, and not receptive to worker’s claims of employer responsibility for workplace accidents. Jurgis and his family were faced with many predicaments related to these poor surroundings and circumstances. The family hastily saw that they must enter the competition forced upon them in a social Darwinist fashion. When he first arrived in Packingtown, Jurgis found work quickly in the meat packing industry because of his strong, young stature.
As the years went by, however, and he grew plagued with injuries and financial troubles, Jurgis found work to be evermore difficult to obtain and hold. The social system cracked down on the family and offered nowhere for the Rudkus’ to turn for help. Not only did the family stumble upon difficulties in their workplaces, but in basic living conditions as well. Jurgis and his family witnessed such atrocities, as baby Antanas tragically drowning in the unpaved roads, devastating financial loss through misinformation concerning the purchase and custody of their house, and unsanitary meat packed and sold for regular consumption. Such incredible pandemonium was involved with virtually all of the Rudkus family’s daily activities and never ceased to cause anxiety and worry in their overburdened lives.
This desolation drove family members to radical attempts at survival and hope for some means of liberation from their atrocious new lives in America. At first, Jurgis ran away from it all, pursuing the life of a free man setting off cross-country. Marija turned to prostitution, after Jurgis fled from them, as means of making end meat for the family. Ona was convinced that she would cause the family’s demise without her cooperation in Conner’s crude sexual demands. Children of the family set out to work instead of gaining the vital education that they were so deserving and needy of.
Also, the elderly Dede Antanas set off to work despite his weak physical state. Jurgis grew steadily more tired as he aged in experience and years. He once thought to himself in a state of great misfortune and suffering, It is a case of us or the other fellow. In these realms and others, nothing is counted but brutal might, an order devised by those who possessed it for the subjugation of those who did not. (Pg.
229) Luckily, Jurgis found himself in the territory of a Socialist convention. He was delightfully enlightened