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The Jungle - Upton Sinclair (Akshay Chitturi)

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The Jungle - Upton Sinclair (Akshay Chitturi) - Page Text Content

S: Akshay Chitturi

FC: The Jungle | A Novel of Death, Despair - and Hope | By Upton Sinclair

1: Plot Summary | The protagonist of the novel is Jurgis, a Lithuanian who lives in the Chicago slums with his wife and family. Jurgis works in the meatpacking plants, a cruel, lawless environment that tests his morals and faith. Jurgis is young and strong, but naive and illiterate. The harsh world of the city slowly breaks him and his family down, and destroys his hope and integrity. After his wife is killed in childbirth and his son drowns in the streets, Jurgis flees Chicago to the countryside. Jurgins enjoys the countryside at first, but then realizes there is no end to exploitation cycle of workers; even the farmers treat the workers badly, and lay them off when the season ends. At the conclusion of the novel (a year later), Jurgins has returned to Chicago to find that his family has vanished. Homeless and destitute, he stumbles into a lecture being given by a Socialist. Jurgis is inspired by Socialism, and its promise of a better life. Jurgis finds employment, and believes that Socialism is the answer to the evil he has seen in society. | Back of the Yards - the Chicago slum where Jurgins lived. | Entrance to the Chicago Stockyards | "...at the end of the week, he will carry home three dollars to his family, -just about his proper share of the millions who are now engaged in earning their livings in the United States." (85) | "...all but the bones of them has gone out to the world as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard." (117)

2: 2007 | Characters | a bumpy bus ride | Jurgis Rudkus A strong, illiterate man who finds work in the Chicago Stockyards. Loses all hope of succeeding in the New World, but finds Socialism as his salvation at the end of the novel. | Jurgins is an honest character, who helps others but only suffers because of it. He suffers extensive moral decay throughout the novel, but continues to be bothered by his sense of personal integrity (after abandoning his family, he questions whether he is even human). | Ona lukoszaite Jurgis' wife. A very beautiful, fragile girl of 16, she is a lovable and loyal character who is destroyed by capitalism. Dies after being forced to work 1 week after giving birth. A girl of high living standards, she is very emotionally fragile | Ona is a very worrisome character throughout the novel, as her lack of ability to deal with the harsh world around her is shown. Ona goes through a crisis when she is raped by her factory boss; eventually, she succumbs to delirium and madness before her death. | "...under such circumstances immorality was as inevitable, and as prevalent, as it was under the system of chattel slavery. Things that were quite unspeakable went on there in the packing houses all the time, and were taken for granted..." (103)

3: THE CANDY BOX | Teta Elzbieta The stepmother of Ona, Teta Elzbieta is an old lady who stays at home to care for her 6 children. Teta is commited to her family, and is a very mentally strong woman. Despite suffering severe misfortune (three of her children die, and her brother Jonas disappears) Teta does not complain and continues to work for the betterment of her family. Forgiving and pragmatic, she accepts Jurgis back into the family at the end of the novel, after Jurgis apologizes for abandoning them to starve. | Marija Berczynskas Marija is Ona's cousin, who travels with the family to America. Proud and defiant, Marija stands up to her corrupt bosses and loses her job because of it. Finding that a life of crime and debauchery has far better rewards in Chicago, Marija turns to vote-rigging and other political occupations. Marija constantly asserts that morals are worthless in the face of capitalism. By the end of the novel, Marija is a morphine addict and a prostitute.

4: Setting | The Jungle takes place in the stockyards, slums, and settlement houses of Chicago in the early 20th century. In 1994, a socialist newspaper sent Upton Sinclair to Chicago, where he exhaustively interviewed workers and collected information on the Chicago meatpacking industry. At the time, the industrial revolution was in full swing - but there were no laws to protect workingmen, and the sudden influx of money bred political and judicial corruption - unbridled capitalism, at the hands of which the poor suffered. Many industries (especially meatpacking) had no government regulation, and so would sell unhealthy products to an unaware public. Meanwhile, the American Dream was luring ever-increasing numbers of immigrants to America - where they had their dreams frequently shattered. Socialism, a burgeoning movement, promised an end to this stark class divide and was soon quite popular in the cities, setting the stage for Sinclair's novel. | "To Jurgis the packers had been equivalent to fate; Ostrinski showed him that 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." (152)

5: Jurgis Rudkus | CONFLICT | Capitalism vs. The Working Class | The main theme of The Jungle is the evil of capitalism. Throughout the novel, the various evils of capitalism and the corresponding effect on the protagonist are described. Sinclair poignantly describes the annihilation of Jurgis' family at the hands of the rich and powerful, who are aided and abetted in their abuse of the poor by capitalism and its brother, corruption. Many scenarios are used to describe the triumph of capitalism over the masses (child labor, selling of tainted meat, public corruption and vote-rigging, the destruction of kindness and morality, etc.) Sinclair portrays capitalism as the overarching problem - and socialism as the solution. | PROBLEM: CAPITALISM Just as the meatpacking industry brutally exploits the animals it kills, so does capitalism devastate the working class it feeds upon for survival. Capitalism also turns the hallowed American Dream into a farce, and Sinclair even hints that unchecked capitalism will destroy America. | SOLUTION: SOCIALISM While the first three-quarters of The Jungle focus solely of the collapse of Jurgis' family and the evils of capitalism, the last section of the novel focuses on Jurgis' exposure to socialism, and his subsequent epiphany. Rather than being subtle, Sinclair chooses to overtly and whole-heartedly espouse socialism as the answer to all of Chicago's problems - people look out for each other, and a benevolent government shields the people from the abuses of big business and corruption.

6: Historical Context | Just like The Great Gatsby, the rich upper class are portrayed as soulless people, who care very little about whom they hurt. Businessman and politicians are willing to do whatever they want. | In the Roaring 20s, the availability of easy money and lack of social values have corrupted the American Dream - discovery, individualism, and the unrestrained pursuit of happiness. Jurgis and his family fall victim to a similar fate - they originally came from Lithuania in hopes of prospering in America, but are soon exposed to the fallacy of the American dream. | Historical Context

7: THE END By Akshay Chitturi

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  • By: Akshay C.
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  • Title: The Jungle - Upton Sinclair (Akshay Chitturi)
  • A harrowing portrait of early 20th century America, Sinclair's novel exposes the fallacies of the Chicago meatpacking industries and the crushing life of the American common man - in the age of unbridled capitalism.
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  • Published: about 6 years ago

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