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The American Jungle Essay

1081 words - 5 pages

The American Dream is a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward mobility achieved through hard work. It is the national ethos of the United States. In the definition of the American Dream by James T. Adams, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with an opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement”. Directly contrasting Adams’ notion of the American Dream is Upton Sinclair’s book, “The Jungle”. Sinclair uses the struggles of a family of working class Lithuanian immigrants to expose the hypocrisy of the American Dream and early American capitalism. Comparing the stark differences between the Epic of ...view middle of the document...

Traditionally, Lithuanian guests leave money at weddings to help cover expenses, but this did not happen for Jurgis therefore leaving him and Ona in debt. This is an indication that capitalism causes people to move away from traditional values and creates a community of people trying to get ahead by taking advantage of one another. Jurgis and his family soon find themselves in a town that is filled with immorality and corruption all created by the manipulation and greed of a capitalist society.
Contrasting Jurgis, the character Phil Connor is used to represent the corrupt evil in capitalism and the industrial world. He is the stereotypical boss who uses his power to manipulate people and get what he wants. When Ona refuses to sleep with Phil, he threatens the economic stability of her family so that she has no other choice. Sinclair uses this instance to symbolize how those in power exploit the working class. When Jurgis justifiably attacks Phil Connor for raping his wife, Phil lies in court and then blacklists Jurgis from any future jobs. This illustrates how the powerful control the judicial system and furthermore demonstrates to the working class not to lash out against oppression. Without Jurgis’ encounters with Connor, he would have never landed at the ideas of socialism.
The driving force of hope, hard work, and the American Dream for Jurgis is his son Antanas. Jurgis is inspired by Antanas to find a job and work hard for the family despite all of the obstacles he faces. When Ona dies, Antanas is left in the care of Kotrina, who is young and very busy, and leaves baby Antanas unsupervised quite often. Jurgis loves his son’s toughness and encourages him to be self-reliant. Antanas leaves the house and drowns in a pothole at the age of one and a half. Atanas’ death is devastating to Jurgis and symbolizes the death of hope in his life. Jurgis faith in the American Dream is shattered, thus creating another pathway for ideas of socialism.
In Jurgis’ final attempt to make capitalism work for him, he returns to Chicago after a summer of homelessness and becomes a criminal. He begins smuggling people, and...

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