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The Jungle By Upton Sinclair: Fame For The Wrong Reason

3428 words - 14 pages

In the early 1900’s America begin to transform rapidly. Many immigrants started moving to the United States in the early 1900’s with the hopes of living the “American Dream.” However, that glittering and gleaming American lifestyle is merely a distant ideal for the immigrants living in Packingtown, the meatpacking district of Chicago. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle portrays life through the eyes of a poor workingman struggling to survive in this cruel, tumultuous environment, where the desire for profit among the capitalist meatpacking bosses and the criminals makes the lives of the working class a nearly unendurable struggle for survival. The novel The Jungle is a hybrid of history, literature, and propaganda. Sinclair, a muckraking journalist of the early 1900s exposed to the nation an industry grounded by the principles of deceit and filth, and offered a new resolution to end this problem. The novel and its massive depiction of the grotesque and unsanitary conditions created an impetus for the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act (McCage 1) which transformed American lifestyle. The Jungle is notorious for exposing the grotesque and unsanitary conditions that existed in the meat packing industry; however, the novel’s purpose expands beyond this issue and reveals the disillusionment of the American dream, the evils of a capitalistic system, and a feasible plan to end corruption.
Upton Sinclair’s novel adequately portrays how repulsive and disheartening the working conditions in the 1900’s really were. Through the eyes of Jurgis Rudkus, a strong young Lithuanian man, and his family, Sinclair is able to display the grotesque and stomach churning nature of the meatpacking industry in the early 20th century. In the beginning of the novel Sinclair shows readers the horrid conditions that the immigrants were continuously exposed to by using vivid imagery. The Chicago stockyards, where the immigrants live and work, are described as a vile and nauseating place. The ditches in the stockyards and in the town were filled with a stinking green liquid. “Swarms of flies” hung over the stockyards and “blackened the air” (Mookerjee 79). “The strange, fetid odor, of all the dead things of the universe” was rampant in the stockyards (Mookerjee 79). Sinclair then goes on to explain that it isn’t just the conditions of the stockyards and the atmosphere of where the workers live and conduct business he describes what ghastly objects went into the meat that serve the American public. Sinclair effectively displays the grotesqueness and barbaric sanitation conditions by commencing the novel by explaining about the “rotten hams and rat adulterated sausage” (Bloodworth 59). Old sausage that had been deemed not able to be processed that contained significant traces of borax and glycerine that had been thrown on the floor and dumped into several different hoppers would be reprocessed and served to the American public as if it...

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