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The Jungle Essay

1110 words - 4 pages


Upton Sinclair was the most famous of the American “muckraker” journalists. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland on September 20, 1878. Although his family was poor, Sinclair was able to earn money as a writer from a very early age, and was able to save enough money to go to college. He attended the city college of New York and graduated from there with a B.A. degree. Soon after he went to Columbia University to graduate school. It was there that he began writing full-length novels with important social themes. His novels showed that he was concerned with the conditions of working people. During the early part of the twentieth century businesses had very little to restrain them and working class unions were not nearly as common as they are today. Some of the biggest abuses of labor conditions took place in big cities such as New York and Chicago. It was in the meatpacking district of Chicago that Sinclair found the setting of the book that would bring him to fame. He first won recognition by the jungle in 1906. This book is a powerful realistic study of social conditions in the stockyards and packing plants of Chicago. It aided in the passing of pure food laws.
     This novel illustrates how greed and ruthless competition has made the turn of the century into a ruthless jungle. “Take or be Taken” was the guiding rule, and everyone was someone else’s prey. The meatpacking district of Chicago in the early 1900’s is where the novel takes place. The main characters in this book are a Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkis, a hardworking strong man out to find the American dream, his wife, and his family who is trying to do the same.
     After a long journey to America the family arrives in Packingtown, where Jokusbas Szedvilas, a fellow Lithuanian immigrant, introduces them to the filthy stinking part of the city that will now be their home. Jurgis is very eager to get a job and succeeds easily. The family has rented living quarters in the filthy boarding house ran by Anielle Jukniene, but Jurgis and the others want to buy a house. An attractive advertisement brings them to a dishonest house agent. They do buy a house, but are made to sign a deed that they can’t even understand. They find out later it requires them to rent the house for a long time and if they miss even one payment they lose all they have in the house. Ona and Stanislovas, Elzbieta’s youngest son, are forced to take up work. Stanislovas is employed to fill lard cans and Ona gets a job wrapping hams. The conditions of work are inhuman, and the workers are treated equally bad. Jurgis’s father is only able to get a job after bribing the boss of the pickling room in a meatpacking plant. The conditions are horrible and in the end kill the old man. Winter brings fresh cruelties. Walking to work in the snow is difficult, the factories are unheated, and for Jurgis the killing beds are fraught with danger due to poor visibility. Marija,...

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