The Jungle is the account of an immigrant who discovers the American Dream can only be a fable under America’s capitalist system. Upton Sinclair wrote the novel after spending some weeks working in the meat packing Industry, basing many of the events and conditions described In the novel on the notes he took firsthand. [The Jungle] Is remembered as a stomach-turning expos© of unsanitary conditions and deceitful practices in the meat packing industry; as such it aroused the ire of a whole nation, from President Theodore Roosevelt on down, and it contributed enormously o the landmark passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906″ (Diskettes 49). But Sinclair was more than a muckraker looking for the next big story, he was also a socialist looking to spread the socialist doctrine, and this is evident in the novel.
The Jungle chronicles the lives of Juries Arduous, a Lithuanian immigrant, and his new family as they start their American existence in the stockyards of Chicago in the early twentieth century. The family faces terrible misfortune and worse working conditions, struggling to make their way in this new world. Gurgles experiences many walks of life, Ewing at times a poor worker, a beggar, a thief, and a floor-boss, until he wanders Into a socialist meeting and Is completely Indoctrinated.
The novel then takes a turn and explores the tenets of socialism and how the socialist solution could improve the livelihoods of the masses. In his novel The Jungle, Upton Sinclair destroys the concept of the American Dream in an effort to attack Capitalistic values and appeal to the tenets of Socialism. From the time of its conception, the American Dream has inspired foreigners to remake their lives in America. Hard work can get anyone anywhere. Juries and his wife Non come to America assured they will find economic opportunity and social equality.
It even becomes Juries’ motto to work harder as he believes hard work can solve every problem. Like many immigrants, they want to own a house and want their children to be educated. They want to prosper and believe that all men are, In fact, created equal. This dream Is not what awaits them In the stockyard; this Is not life In the Jungle. “Beneath the rhetoric of a new society based on equality and brotherhood, America had built its experiment on tired and tested foundations of intentions and greed” (Yoder 13), and that greed had seeped into each aspect of their dream.
They enter into a greed fueled capitalist system that forgives no man, unless he can pay for his penance. No man is forgiven; the stockyards emphasize profits over safety and security, and the conditions in the packing houses reflect this parameterization. While Juries is ebullient when he is first given a Job on the killing floor, he does not realize the back breaking work he faces. Juries is a giant of a man, but the system is tiring even for him. The floor-bosses who oversee the killing floor speed up the process, not allowing time for rest or error.
Gurgles falls into a pattern of mechanical repetition through the novel (Derrick 130). The workers must execute machine Like actions, performing the same task ad-Infinitum with robotic precision. None of the workers are paid well because there is always an aggregation of men outside the gates who would work for repeated motion can be easily taught to a new worker. The men also work in terrible conditions, standing in half an inch of blood each day while the men around them wing knives with abandon. Many men are injured in the novel, including Juries who receives a sprained ankle and a burned hand while working.
In the stockyards, “grotesque injuries were inevitable, injuries for which the company would never take responsibility” (Diskettes 57). This is the case for an unfortunate worker pulverize by an elevator: “… Before he died the company lawyer had tricked him into signing away his damage claims for twenty-five dollars” (Sinclair 58). When Juries is hurt the younger children are removed from school and go to work selling newspapers in the streets. The children are denied their education because they need to help support their family. The Arduous’ lives become incongruous with their expectations of American life.
Sinclair depicts these horrid conditions to show that the companies did not care for the quality of its workers’ lives, for its workers were merely easily replaced tools. The work grinded the workers’ bodies and the pay did not afford them the nutrition to stay healthy. “Sinclair point is precisely that people who are ‘wage slaves’ are not autonomous… ” (Diskettes 56), they are not machines, and yet they are treated like machines. This is a key part of the socialist’s view of capitalism; they believe that the individual is buried in the system and thus does not truly live.
The loss of individuality is evinced in the novel by showing that even with Juries, Non, Marina, and Standstills working the family cannot afford its housing and basic needs, and therefore cannot pursue their individual passions. They have given themselves completely to the meatpacking machine. The family buys a house shortly after arriving in Chicago, using the bulk of their savings as a down payment. Owning a house is one of their dreams for their life in America, a dream shared by many immigrants.
It seems like a wonderful deal, the house is alleged to be new and it is affordable, but Teat Elizabeth is nervous when she signs the contract, as it is written in English and she only understands Lithuanian. The family then comes to realize how they had been deceived when they discover they need to pay insurance on the house. “… That night came Juries, grim and determined, requesting that the agent would be good enough to inform him, once and for all, as to all the expenses they were liable for… The deed was signed, and so he agent had no longer anything to gain by keeping quiet” (Sinclair 75).
They had been conned out of their money, the only new thing about the house is the paint, and the expenses are more than they can handle. “… They realize that their combined salaries would not be sufficient to meet the house payments and also provide other necessities… They all know that like many others before them they would sacrifice everything to meet the payments only to lose everything in the end, which they do” (Elliott 94). Losing their house spells the beginning of the end for Juries’ family; Non summarily dies during childbirth after Juries, who has been in Jail, realizes they have lost their home.
Ana’s death is symbolic of the death of the family hopes for happiness and success. Capitalism not only takes the Arduous’ money, health, and home, but also extends to take their social rights. “[Sinclair] sought to show that it was the system under rich that was responsible for all the suffering and misery” (Mockery 77), not only their pecuniary problems. Non is raped by her boss, who threatens to get her family fired if she does not comply. When Juries is taken to court for attacking the man, the many lawyer only has to ask for Juries to be incarcerated and the Judge agrees; there is no defense.
Later it becomes evident that the Judges are in collusion with the political bosses when Juries is taken to court for the same crime, following a chance encounter with Ana’s rapist after Juries has entered the world of political graft, and is released with no penalty because of his connections. Juries expresses Sinclair view on the Judicial system, corrupted by graft and bribery, when he says, “their Justice, it was a lie a hideous, brutal lie… It was a sham and a loathsome mockery- there was no justice, there was no right anywhere in it- it was only force, it was tyranny, the will and the power, reckless and unrestrained! (Sinclair 148). The political bosses and corporate businessmen use chicanery to increase their own wealth, and Jettison the rights of the workingman in the process. This corruption is shown to be present in the electoral system as well. Chaffs democracy is a cover for the businessmen that truly administer to the city (Sinclair 232). Juries makes more money as a political Worker’ than he ever could while toiling in the stockyards, and all he had to do was buy votes for his candidate. However, his earnings do not compare to the political bosses who glean money from public projects or catch early wind of the results of the horse races. Men are not necessarily evil, but within capitalism immoral behavior is systematically rewarded” (Yoder 14). The novel shows that, despite the claim from the American Dream that one could get anywhere through honest hard work, the only way to advance economically is through deception and graft. The famous rights propagated by the American government are no panacea in the Jungle. The law can be bent to the whim of the highest bidder. While the majority of The Jungle details Juries’ adventures and the abominable situation of the city, the final few paragraphs of the novel put Juries to the side and explore the ideals of socialism.
Juries wanders into a convention hall for warmth and awakens to listen to a socialist speaker that connects with him and convinces him of the socialist solution. After this, Juries gets a Job as a hotel worker for a socialist, he feels fulfilled to help with the socialist cause and his money problems are over. “Capitalism is to blame for much of the suffering in the novel, yet as the title of the evolve implies, Sinclair regards capitalism precisely as an unwires nature into which humankind can periodically fall, or from which it can be transformed by the application of socialist principles” (Derrick 127).
Juries, who can be seen as a symbol of the common man, is cured of his social evils when he converts to a socialist view. He exclaims, “socialism is freedom and independence; it’s owning your own Job and being your own boss, it’s working when you please and where you please, it’s plenty and opportunity – it’s everything you want in the world and that your masters are ring to keep from you! ” (Sinclair 306). The socialists in this part of the novel are infallible, surmounting their myopic opponents in two debates with bulletproof arguments.
Through speeches given by these characters, Sinclair articulates his view of socialism in an effort to convince the reader that it will solve all the problems he Though Sinclair was a muckraker, he does not intend for The Jungle to be limited in view to Just Chicago. “For the place which is here called The Jungle is not Backpacking, nor is it Chicago, nor is it Illinois, nor is it the United States-it is Civilization” (Sinclair 116). Being a naturalist writer, Sinclair attributes the actions of his characters to their environment, thus Juries is miserable when he is a packer and elated when he is a free socialist.
This is important because otherwise all of the Arduous’ troubles could be the result of the nefarious political bosses and owners of the stockyards. “[Sinclair] concluded that no one person or group is responsible for suffering and evil; natural human greed and the system of capitalism that greed has created are to blame” (Elliott 90). Furthermore, since it is the capitalist environment which troubles civilization and not the capitalists themselves, as long as there is a capitalist social order then these troubles will be everlasting.
Only an advent of socialism, a change in the environment itself, will produce a change in civilization. In an effort to persuade readers to renounce capitalism and take up socialism, Sinclair shows how capitalism dismantles and mars the American Dream in The Jungle. He makes the Arduous family wage slaves, no more individuals than tools of their employers. “His portrayal of Lithuanian peasants who come to America vividly suggests that our melting pot is less appetizing than the terms offered on our Statue of Liberty” (Yoder 4).
The family suffers through terrible working conditions for low wages only to have their house, their one tenable possession, taken from them. The capitalist system also corrupts America’s great democracy and the court system. Finally, the only vindication against these evils is shown to be a conversion to a socialist system. If The Jungle was truly only about the vulgar meat packing methodology practiced in Backpacking, then the novel would have been forgotten as period piece.
Rather, it details the flaws of a social system still practiced today, and offers a solution, although an admittedly utopian solution, in the form of socialism. This novel not only calls for a reform of food processing, but also for social reform. If America is to truly have a society with a legitimate “American Dream,” then socialism can be the only way to achieve that goal. Until then, the American Dream will continue to be Just that?a dream?and will be nothing more than a grandiose idea in the minds of America’s citizens. Works Cited Sinclair The Jungle.