The Jungle: A close examination

There are a million people, men and women and children, who share the curse of the wage-slave; who toil every hour they can stand and see, for just enough to keep them alive; who are condemned till the end of their days to monotony and weariness, to hunger and misery, to heat and cold, dirt and disease, to ignorance and drunkenness and vice! And then turn them over to me, and gaze upon the other side of the picture. There are a thousand-ten thousand, maybe-who are master of these slaves, who own their toil. They do nothing to earn what they receive, they do not even have to ask for it-it comes to them of itself, their only care is to dispose of it. They live in such palaces, they riot in luxury and extravagance-such as no words can describe, as makes the imagination reel and stagger, makes the soul grow sick and faint. (363)

The Jungle, considered Upton Sinclair?s greatest achievement, shows the deplorable conditions in meat packing plants, as well as moving the reader on the path to socialism, something in which he truly believed in. In order for Sinclair to give accurate details in the book, he spent over a year researching and writing about the conditions on the meat packing plants in Chicago. This first hand experience allowed for Sinclair to see the plight of the "wage-slaves." At the turn of the century, no laws were in place to protect the workers or to regulate the shipment of meat.

The Jungle was originally serialized in a socialist newspaper, entitled Appeal to Reason. When the book was finally published in book form, it instigated a pure food movement, which brought about the Pure Food and Drug Act. George P. Brett said the following of The Jungle:

"[The Jungle] will set forth the breaking of human hearts by a system which exploits the labor of men and women for profit. It will shake the poplar heart and blow the roof off the industrial tea-kettle. What socialism will be in this book, will, of course, be imminent; it will be reveled by incidents-there will be no sermons. (Bloodworth 48)

This is very truthful, as it accurately describes how Sinclair leads the reader towards socialism through the various literary aspects in the novel- such as characters, conflict, point of view, theme, and style.

In the novel, Jurgis sees that everyone that comes into contact with capitalism becomes greedy and materialistic, even himself. Jurgis sees the deceitfulness used by the political machine in the packing yards of Chicago. When the elections come around every year, he is bribed to vote under many different pseudo-names, and is paid four dollars, equal to a week worth of work. Also, Jurgis is paid five dollars to pick up paychecks for imaginary city workers. Later in the novel, Jurgis becomes involved in the political machine. He finds that he becomes one of the henchmen for the political powers in the packing yards. After he gets put in jail, he is forced to buy is way out, which costs him everything he has. After he is forced to live like a vagabond again, he feels an inadequacy about his life, an empty feeling. He misses how he used to live extravagantly, and wonders how he could have lived without it.

Another character that finds the evils of capitalism is Marija, who is forced in a life of prostitution and drug use due to the competitive nature of capitalism. When she first tries to get a job in the meat plants, she needs to bribe the forewomen in order to get the job. Also while Marija is trying to support the family without Jurgis, she is led to a life of prostitution because it is the only job she can obtain. While living in the brothel, she acquires a morphine addiction. While she lives in the brothel, she finds that living there was unexpected consequences, such as having to pay for living there, which amounts to basically the entire paycheck. She soon finds out that she cannot support her family due to the capitalist mindset in Chicago. She figures that being a whore is a better than having to starve and live on the street. While Marija is in the brothel, Tita Elizbieta and her teenage children are forced to attain jobs to support themselves, but