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The Jungle By Upton Sinclair Essay

1593 words - 7 pages

What are the major issues Sinclair addresses in The Jungle?
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is a vivid account of life for the working class in the early 1900s. Jurgis Rudkus and his family travel to the United States in search of the American dream and an escape from the rigid social structure of Lithuania. Instead, they find a myriad of new difficulties. Sinclair attributes their problems to the downfalls of capitalism in the United States. While America’s system was idealistic for Jurgis and his family at first, the mood of the story quickly transforms to assert that capitalism is evil. This theme drives the author’s message and relay of major issues throughout the entirety of the novel. ...view middle of the document...

In the story, Jurgis tears a tendon while scrambling away from a rogue cow; his foot is caught in one of the blood traps. It is an obvious safety hazard at the fault of the company, yet, he does not receive compensation. He is forced to beg for his job back. Marija loses her job drawing advertisements at a canning company when she joins a union. Ona’s boss, Phil Connor, harasses her. When Jurgis learns of the assault, he attacks the man and goes to jail. “They put him in a place where the snow could not beat in, where the cold could not eat through his bones; they brought him food and drink—why, in the name of heaven, if they must punish him, did they not put his family in jail and leave him outside—why could they find no better way to punish him than to leave three weak women and six helpless children to starve and freeze?” (Sinclair, 184-185). This quote shockingly illustrates that the prison is actually an environment far preferable to the cruel, filthy world of Packingtown. Sinclair’s famous descriptions of the repugnant meatpacking plants is meant to enhance the plea for better physical conditions. There are endless examples where Sinclair addresses the lack of rights for the working class. He suggests socialism as a possible remedy where the social classes would be even, but stresses the necessity of labor unions to maintain wages, workers’ compensation claims, and a safe and healthy work environment free from exploitation.
Women were portrayed as even lower on the social scale. As previously mentioned, Ona was sexually assaulted by her boss. She was victimized because she was a woman. Marija faced similar discrimination when searching for a job. Eventually, she found one as a beef-cutter. “She got this because the boss saw that she had the muscles of a man, and so he discharged a man and put Marija to do his work, paying her a little more than half...” (121). She was paid less to do the same job because she was a women. Sinclair mentions his indignation toward the unfair and unequal treatment of women with subtle remarks throughout the story.
Finally, Sinclair addresses the inclination of the poor to turn to alcoholism, drugs, and criminal activity. Jurgis becomes addicted to alcohol to escape the misery of poverty. When he drinks, “his dead self would stir in him, and he would find himself laughing and cracking jokes with his companions - he would be a man again, and master of his life” (Sinclair, 158). He grows to resent his married life and his family, for they keep him from being able to drink more. Elzbieta’s son, Stanislovas, is the scapegoat for his bitterness. Jurgis beats him every morning. Later in the story, the family discovers criminal activity as a way to earn money. Jurgis’s friend in prison urges him to help rob a well-dressed man on the streets; he receives fifty-five dollars for the deed. Ona and Marija turn to prostitution to put food on the table, and, as a result, Marija turns to morphine to escape her...

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