Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle Essay

617 Words 3 Pages
Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle

Many immigrants are moving to the United States in the early 1900’s with the hopes of living the “American Dream.” However, that glittering American lifestyle is merely a distant ideal for the immigrants living in Packingtown, the Lithuanian meatpacking district of Chicago. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle portrays life through the eyes of a poor workingman struggling to survive in this cruel 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.

To begin, life among the working class sways with the corruption among the meatpacking bosses, or packers, and the criminals.
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The packers and criminals have control of nearly everything in Packingtown including politics. As Jurgis eventually realizes, “... the packers had been equivalent to fate. ... They were a gigantic combination of capital, which had crushed all opposition, and overthrown the laws of the land, and was preying upon the people” (311). Mike Scully, a corrupt political boss, decides who will win local elections and the majority of the time the votes are supplied through one form of bribery or another and his candidate wins. Laws make no difference in Packingtown. Anyone of any importance pays a weekly bribe to their local policeman and gets to know their local judge as a personal friend. This is the reason that poor Jurgis is sent to jail for attacking the packer who raped his wife and told that it was his own fault and not that of the packer. Yet this is not punishment for Jurgis, to whom jail is a haven with food and warmth, but for his family, who are left to try and support themselves while Jurgis is unable to work. As Jurgis questions, “why could they find no better way to punish him than to leave three weak women and six helpless children to starve and freeze” (160)? Tamoszius, a friend of Jurgis’s explains the situation perfectly clearly, “[the company is] owned by a man who was trying to make as much money out of it as he could, and did not care in the least how he did it; and underneath him, ranged in ranks and grades like an army, were managers and
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