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ESSAY CATEGORY: History
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Sinclairs Purpose in Writing The Jungle
Grade: 93
Language: english
System: Chippenham County, Virginia
Country: USA
Authors Comments:Boring book – teacher loved the essay
Teachers Comments:excellent interpretation
April 16, 1995
HIS 201
4/16/1995
Sinclair’s Purpose in Writing The Jungle
Upton Sinclair wrote this book for a couple of reasons. First
and foremost, he tries to awaken the reader to the terrible
living conditions of immigrants in the cities around the turn of
the century. Chicago has the most potent examples of these
conditions. Secondly, he attempts to show the advantages of
socialism in helping to remedy the problems of a society such as
the one that exists in Chicago at this time.
Sinclair accomplishes his objectives with an extremely
powerful story. Jurgis Rudkus and his family seem to be an
average immigrant family of the period. They are not wealthy and
they are easily fooled by schemes designed to take what little
they have. The language barrier encountered by these people is a
major factor in allowing them to be swindled. The immigrants of
this period tend to trust anyone who is fluent in their native
language.
This fact is put to use twice early in their time in
America. A Lithuanian lawyer is sought to read over the contract
for the purchase of their house. Jurgis is suspicious when the
lawyer and the agent are on a first name basis. However, when
the lawyer tells him that it is a legal and fair document, Jurgis
believes him. The lawyer does not tell him of the loopholes that
will eventually lead to the loss of the house.
After Jurgis works in the packing house for a while, a man
tells him in Lithuanian that he can now become a citizen. Jurgis
is then registered to vote, and told about one of the candidates.
Nothing is said of the other candidate, so he votes for the man
that he is told of, and receives money for this vote.
Another problem faced by most of the immigrants of Chicago is
making a living. Jurgis gets a job on the first day trying. He
is paid the princely sum of $1.25 a day. In Lithuania, this is a
lot of money. With the wages of himself and his brother, the
entire family should be able to keep solvent. Due to the hidden
charges for the house, he finds that he is dreadfully wrong.
Eventually, all of the family members must seek work, just to
survive. Life becomes a ‘hand-to-mouth’ proposition. Even after
the family loses the house, things do not get any easier.
During this time period, there is no such thing as job
security. All of the packing houses have a ‘speed-up’ policy.
If a worker did not keep up the pace, there are thousands of
hungry people in the streets begging for work. This leads to
very dangerous working conditions. As Jurgis finds out, even the
slightest accident can lead to the loss of a job. After his
recovery from a sprained ankle, Jurgis must join the thousands in
the streets looking for work. The way that the family must live
leads to the death of several of the family members. Among these
are Jurgis’ father, Dede Antanas; his wife, Ona; and his son,
little Antanas. After these tragedies, Jurgis leaves Chicago for
a time, and ‘hobos it’ in the country. In doing this, he finds a
way of life that is similar to the one which he left in
Lithuania. In the winter, however, Jurgis must return to the
city.
Upon his return, he sees the other side of the coin. He
becomes involved in crime, graft, and vote buying. He is now the
man who goes around registering new immigrants to vote, and pays
them money for it. Jurgis finds that there is a comfortable
living to be made doing this. However, he is still confronted
with the problem of fleeting success.
During this period, much racial unrest in present in the
country. People do not like immigrants, because they take the
jobs and they drink too much. Sinclair addresses both of these
gripes in his book. The ‘speeding-up’ is the reason that the
jobs go to immigrants, who are willing to work for anything. The
living conditions are the reason for the excessive drinking,
according to Sinclair. Jurgis most stay out of the cold of
winter to survive. There is no other place for him to go except
a saloon. He must drink to stay inside for a while. If he
drinks, he receives food as a bonus. This consumes most of his
savings when he is out of work.
Near the end of the book, Sinclair accomplishes his second
objective. While Jurgis is trying to find a warm place to be, he
happens upon a socialist rally. Sinclair attempts to show the
reader that socialism could have averted all of Jurgis’ problems.
Sinclair succeeds in getting his point across. The reader is
brought into this appalling life that Jurgis is forced to lead,
and then is offered a solution to the problems presented.
Another reform that Sinclair had mot planned on was the
reform of the Meat Industry. The conditions depicted in the
packing houses is disgusting. During this time, American meat
products were not accepted by many countries because of the poor
quality. The Food and Drug Administration is created to clean up
the industry. This actually benefits the packers. After the
clean-up, U. S. meat is imported by many countries, opening
up fresh markets for the packers. Upton Sinclair is supposed
to have said that he aimed at the public’s heart, and by
accident he hit it in the stomach.
This work paints a very vivid picture of the world of the
immigrant of the early 1900’s. It makes the reader think about
the injustices that existed then, and to some extent, still
exist. The story seems to be true to life, and not the least bit
contrived.
The reader is wrapped up in the life of Jurgis Rudkus. Every
time he seems to be on top of things, he is knocked off by some
unseen force. The book is very difficult to put down because the
fate of the main character always seems to be hanging on the
brink.
This book is an indispensable insight into the history of the
era. However, the socialist propaganda at the end seems to be a
bit hard to accept. It is too large of a dose, and seems to
abandon Jurgis. This appears to be the only problem with the
book, and can be almost overlooked by the reader, if it is
desired.
Upton Sinclair wrote a very impressive work. It is
definitely worth the time to read it. It shows many facets of
life during the period. The storyteller has a very dynamic
person to narrarate. The hopes and dreams of a generation of
immigrants to the United States are presented in a very
thought-provoking manner.

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