Word Count: 1546This bookwas fact. Upton Sinclair visited Chicago in November 1904 to doresearch for the book. Sinclair lived in a neighborhood calledPackingtown for seven weeks.
While in Packingtown, Sinclairinterviewed workers, lawyers, doctors, saloonkeepers, and social workers. The book deals with the greed and ruthless competition that turnedAmerica into a brutal country, which Sinclair referred to as a “jungle. ” also tells how those at the bottom of the economic ladder, whowere wage-earners and their families, are at a great disadvantage in thecapitalist country. The wage-earners are slaves to the sudden wishes oftheir masters, who are the capitalists who own and run privateindustries. The Jungle starts with the marriage of Ona Lukoszaite and JurgisRudkus in America, which was organized by Ona’s cousin Marija.
Thenovel then flashes back to their lives in a rural Lithuanian town, andhow their families, Ona’s stepmother Elzbieta, and her five children,Jurgis’ father, and four other adults, thought that America would be sucha great place to live in and decided to move to America. The day afterthe wedding is over, everyone was back to work and Jurgis and Ona’smarried life was cheerless. The pressures of work, poverty and illnessstifles the families spirits and then Dede Antanas, Jurgis’ dad, dies. After Jurgis gives his father an inexpensive funeral, he decides to jointhe Union and begins to learn English and gets an unfriendly opinion ofdemocracy. Jurgis begins to see how the packers operate, they sell spoiledor contaminated meat without remorse. Workers are exposed to awfuloccupational diseases without protection.
Then, Ona give’s birth to ababy boy. The families third winter in America starts with Jurgisgetting injured on the job and Jonas, Elzbieta’s brother, disappearing,leaving the families income to decrease by one third. When Jurgisrecovers and goes to get his job back, he finds it gone and must findanother job. He finds a job at Durham’s Fertilizer Plant.
Because of thesmell of the plant, Jurgis starts to drink. He then finds out that Ona ispregnant again, and he isn’t the father. Ona’s boss, Phil Connor,threatened to fire everyone in her family if she did not submit herself tohim. Jurgis nearly kills Connor when he finds out and is sent to jail. When Jurgis is let out of jail, he finds his family evicted from thehouse they tried so hard to keep, and back to the lodging house where thefamily was when they first arrived. Upon finding the family, Ona isgiving birth, and Jurgis persuades a midwife to help, to no benefit, andOna and the baby die.
Jurgis wants to leave, but because of his son,Antanas, Jurgis stays and gets a job then is laid off, so Jurgis gets a job ata steel plant, then his son accidentally drowns. Jurgis then becomes arunaway. After an on the job injury lands Jurgis in the hospital, he joinsthe army of unemployed men hunting for work. During a highunemployment time in January 1904, Jurgis starts begging and meets thedrunken son of a meat packing family and goes home with him.
When heleaves the family, he is full and has a $100 bill. When a bartender cheatsJurgis out of the money, he attacks him and is arrested and jailed. Jurgisthen goes to the stockyards as an undercover worker of the Democraticboss. Jurgis promotes the boss’s choice for representative, the Republicancandidate. Jurgis then gets a foreman job and takes bribes from his menand beats up strikers for the packers.
A second attack on Phil Connorlands Jurgis in jail again. Jurgis then posts bail and flees, going back tobegging. He meets an old friend who gives him Marija’s address. Hefinds her and discovers she is a prostitute and drug addict. Then Jurgiswalks in a political rally to keep warm. An emotional public speakerconverts Jurgis to socialism and his life takes a new turn; he’s given anew job as a porter in a hotel owned by a socialist.
The novel ends onelection night in 1904, where Jurgis learns his party has made a strongshowing. Upton Sinclair is trying to tell the readers of The Jungle how bad itwas for wage-earners in the early 1900’s. Because workers were oftenignorant of their own best interests, they would unknowingly take stepsto defeat them. Workers would back the wrong candidates, manufacturegoods that might harm them, and break strikes that could benefit them. Jurgis beat up the strikers for the packers, and he was most likelyharming himself because the strikers were striking for more sanitaryconditions.
Industrial Capitalism is an efficient, impersonal “slaughteringmachine,” that sacrificed its workers. Businesses took no responsibilityfor their workers. They used up the strong and young and discarded theweak and old. If workers got too old or were unable to work hard or fastenough, the companies fired them and replaced them with the young,fast, and strong workers, until they were to old and weak to work. Thiscycle continued with the young workers becoming old, and beingreplaced with young workers.
I found it extremely hard to pick a couple of characters that I likedbecause I would like them in the beginning, but then later on in the novel,they would do something that made them not be one of my favoritecharacters. I could only find one character that I really liked, and theone character that I particularly liked was Elzbieta Lukoszaite, Ona’sbeloved stepmother. I like Elzbieta because she was a link between theOld World and the New World throughout the novel. She insisted on atraditional wedding for Ona and a proper funeral for her sonKristoforas, when he died. She begged for money for a funeral marchwhen Ona died and persuaded Jurgis to stay in America for his son’ssake.
She was predictable and poised. Although you find out all of thesethings about her, you don’t really get to know her in the story. At theend, though sick and being supported largely by Marija’s prostitution,she attended Socialist meetings with Jurgis; yet they meant nothing toher; she planned her meals during the speeches. Elzbieta always didthings for others, even if they didn’t interest her.
She also wanted toproperly honor her family members that had died and she didn’t letothers forget about the Old World. One character that I didn’t like was Freddie Jones, son of thewealthy meat packer, Old Man Jones. Freddie was out of town when hefound Jurgis begging. He tells Jurgis that they are in the same position. “No money either,” Freddie tells Jurgis. His father had left him with lessthan two thousand dollars in his pocket, which is more than an unskilledworker in Packingtown can make in five years.
I do think that UptonSinclair used Freddie Jones to show the insensitivity of the rich to thedifficulty of the poor, because Freddie can’t make the ingenious leaprequired to understand Jurgis’s poverty. A moving moment in this novel to me was all of the tragedies thathappens to Jurgis. First off, shortly after Jurgis and Ona marry, DedeAntanas, Jurgis’s father, dies. Jurgis has the pressures of work, poverty,and illness to worry about, plus to have a funeral for his father thatwon’t bankrupt the family.
But don’t forget how Jurgis is constantlygetting injured on the job, causing the family income to decrease everytime. Then when Ona gets pregnant again, and Jurgis finds out that thebaby isn’t his, he is devastated, and then nearly kills Ona’s boss and is putin jail. When things are finally looking better for Jurgis when he isreleased from jail, he finds Ona in labor, and then Ona and the baby diedue to complications. Jurgis wanted to leave Chicago, but stayed becausehis son, Antanas, was there. He stayed and got a job with a maker offarm equipment, and then is laid off but finds a job in at a steel plant.
Things are taking a slight turn for the better when Antanas accidentallydrowns in flood waters. Jurgis’s whole life is full of tragedies with thedeaths of the people he loved and carried about, that is why I found histragedies to be the most meaningful to me. I can honestly say that I would not have chosen to read TheJungle. But once I started reading the novel, I really got into it.
At somepoints I couldn’t put the book down, while at other points I could hardlystand to read anymore. I thought that the book was good because itshowed how life was for immigrants that came to America in search of abetter life, but unfortunately, were misled and found America to be muchlike the countries they came from. I also thought the book was goodbecause it showed how the people in America treated the immigrants,the book didn’t try to make anything less than what it really was, itmade it what it really was. For example, when Upton Sinclair wasstating the horrible conditions existing in meat factories, he didn’t try tomake it better than it was, he used words to describe the actualconditions. I would recommend this book to other people, because of it’struthfulness in it’s descriptions.