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The Jungle Essay

1434 words - 6 pages

Nine-teen hundred and six was a time defined and marked in our history by Progressive reform and pTheodore Roosevelt was in the Whitehouse and immigrants were in factories and the slums. Progressivism, "was a political response to industrialization and its social by-products . . . the progressives were reformers, not radicals. They wanted to remedy the social evils spawned by capitalism, not destroy the system itself." (Boyer, p. 625) It was on this notion of reform, and "˜response to industrialization and its social by-products,' that Upton Sinclair's The Jungle took hold of the American sentiment and turned it inside out. Whether one wants to categorize Sinclair's Jungle as muckraking, propaganda, or both, the effect the Jungle had on social perspective must be acknowledged. Acting a vehicle for socialistic rhetoric, The Jungle, both in story, and in history was able to rally immigrant support and was and important catalyst in the passing of the first piece of regulatory food and drug legislature. The Jungle, through the story of Lithuanian immigrants, reveals the plight of immigrants and exposes the degradation of the working condition in, and the treatment of workers, in the Chicago meat packing industry. Sinclair approaches the novel as a narrative, infusing it with his socialistic views. The characters do nothing on their own, all their thoughts, and sentiments are what Sinclair says they think. What becomes more evident as the reader ventures farther into the story is the fact that for Sinclair, the means of salvation is the adoption of the socialists spirit, and those who fail are the victims of capitalism.As a piece of propaganda, The Jungle, successfully throws open the door on the plight of the immigrant worker. In the first couple of chapters, Sinclair gives a vivid description of the conditions under which the workers worked at the meet packing plant as well as the standards by which the factory is operating. In one scene, Antanas Rudkus, Jurgis's father, describes in detail what his job as the "squeedgie" man entails. " . . .The beef had lain in vats full of chemicals . . . the emptied the vat on the floor . . . This floor was filthy, yet they set Antanas with his mop slopping the "˜pickle' into a hole that connected with a sink, where it was caught and used over again forever; and if that were not enough, there was a trap in the pipe, where all the scraps of meat and odds and ends of refuse were caught, [it was Antanas's job] to clean these out, and shovel their contents into one of the trucks with the rest of the meat!" (Sinclair, p. 65) Soon after book the opens, we find ourselves quickly rejoicing with Jurgis, as he has found himself a job with Brown's for 17 and ½ cents an hour. "His whole soul was dancing with joy "“he was at work at last!" (Sinclair, p. 46) We first see the exploits of capitalism as Jurgis and his family decide it would be more economical to buy a house...

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