The Jungle3

This essay has a total of 1398 words and 7 pages.


The Jungle3





The Jungle

By Upton Sinclair





















"The Jungle" portrays the lower ranks of the industrial world as the scene of a naked
struggle for survival. Where workers not only are forced to compete with each other but,
if they falter, are hard pressed to keep starvation from their door and a roof over their
heads. With unions weak and cheap labor plentiful, a social Darwinist state of "the
survival of the fittest" exists. The real story revolves around the integration and
eventual disintegration of Jurgis Rudkis and his family, Lithuanian immigrants who move to
the Chicago stockyards in hopes of a better life. Unfortunately, their hopes quickly
disintegrate; like thousands of other unskilled immigrants at the turn of the century,
financial necessity forces them into virtual slave labor in order to survive. For Jurgis
and his family, the slave master is the ruthless and greedy meat packing industry, whose
leaders value their workers no more than the animals they slaughter.

"The Jungle" shows the relationship between the animals that were being slaughtered and
the workers who were slaughtering them, from very early in the novel. It compares the
workers to the animals who are penned up and killed every day in the stockyards, which are
moved along on conveyer belts by machinery that cares nothing for their individual
desires. In the monotonous killing of each of the hogs, "They had done nothing to deserve
it; and it was adding insult to injury, as the thing was done here, swinging them up in
this cold blooded, impersonal way, without a pretense of apology without the homage of a
tear."(Pg. 35) The key comparison is the condition of the workingmen; as cold, efficient
machinery assimilates them, a blind fate swallows them up. A few of the men are even
swallowed up literally when they would fall into huge vats and emerges as "Durham’s Pure
Leaf Lard". (Pg. 99) "The Jungle" also shows precisely how wounded, diseased, and pregnant
animals are turned into food under just the same unhealthy conditions that soon leave
healthy men wounded and diseased; "There was no heat upon the killing beds; the men might
as well have worked out of doors all winter…. On the killing beds you were apt to be
covered with blood, and it would freeze solid; if you leaned against a pillar, you would
freeze to that, and if you put your hand upon the blade of your knife, you would run a
chance of leaving your skin on it." (Pg. 79 & 80) Grotesque injuries were inevitable,
injuries for which the company would rarely take responsibility. While a man was laid up
his family could starve or freeze to death, and after a series of such injuries, if he
survived, he would be too crippled to go on doing the work. When Jurgis is healthy and
overflowing with life, he gets a job immediately. When he becomes an empty husk of his
former self he is reduced to beggary. Even among beggars he finds a jungle of savage
competition, in which the truly needy are often at a disadvantage.

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