Essay Preview: The Jungle
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Upton Sinclair really wrote The Jungle for the promotion of socialism, himself being a long-time socialist, but what really caught the attention of the public was the few pages of descriptions about the horrors of the meat-packing industry. He couldnt have been very happy that the book gained fame for a different reason, but nonetheless it did gain a significant amount of fame and get that message of socialism is better than communism out to the public widely. There are a lot of different characters in The Jungle, and they all have some significance in their roles. These characters vary widely in many aspects, including: professions, social status, and economic status.
The main character in the novel is Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant. His wife is Ona Lukoszaite, also from Lithuania. Their son is named Antanas, but he dies after not too long, which is really a turning point for Jurgis. Phil Jack Duane is an experienced and educated criminal who is also “politically connected”. Connor is a foreman in Packingtown, politically connected through Scully, and a man who causes much trouble for Jurgis. Mike Scully is a powerful political leader in Packingtown. There are also the members of Onas family, each of whom play smaller parts in the story.
The story opens with the party at Jurgis and Onas wedding in America, but soon goes back to the time before they left Lithuania. Jurgis met Ona at a horse fair, and fell in love with her. Unfortunately, they were too poor to have a wedding, since Onas father just died. In the hopes of finding freedom and fortune, they left for America, bringing many members of Onas family with them.
After arriving in America, they are taken to Packingtown to find work. Packingtown is a section of Chicago where the meat packing industry is centralized. They take a tour of the plant, and see the unbelievable efficiency and speed at which hogs and cattle are butchered, cooked, packed, and shipped. In Packingtown, no part of the animal is wasted.
Jurgiss tough build quickly gets him a job on the cattle killing beds. The other members of the family soon find jobs, except for the children. They are put into school. At first, Jurgis is happy with his job and America, but he soon learns that America is plagued by corruption, dishonesty, and bribery. He is forced to work at high speeds for long hours with low pay, and so is the rest of the family. He is cheated out of his money several times. The children must leave school and go to work to help the family survive. This means they will never receive the education they need to rise above this, and get a better job, part of the vicious cycle. Ona is not permitted to take a holiday, even for her own wedding, and the birth of her child.
After the birth of her first son, Antanas, Ona soon becomes pregnant again. She becomes very upset, but she doesnt tell Jurgis why. After she fails to come home one night, Jurgis confronts her. She breaks into tears and tells Jurgis that a foreman named Connor has forced a sexual relationship on her. Jurgis curses her and runs off to find Connor.
After beating Connor to a pulp, Jurgis is sentenced to jail for thirty days. The judge refuses to listen to Jurgiss story seriously. When Jurgis is released, he finds that his family has moved to an even poorer neighborhood, and Ona is in labor at that very moment. Neither the baby, nor Ona, who went into labor two months early, survive. Jurgis pulls himself together for the sake of Antanas and gets a job. When Antanas drowns in the mud-filled street, Jurgis gives up on Packingtown and his family. He gets aboard a passing train, and leaves Chicago.
Jurgis enjoys a “hobo” life, wandering across the country. When winter comes, he is forced to return to Chicago. He gets into a fight in a bar and is sent to jail. In jail, he meets Jack Duane, an experienced criminal. After being freed from jail, Jurgis and Duane team up in a luxurious, but risky life of crime. Jurgis learns about the connections between criminals, police, politics, and big business. He becomes a member of this complex network and moves into politics. He runs into Connor again, and beats him to a pulp a second time. Connors political connections cause Jurgis to lose all his acquired profit. Jurgis is back to wandering the streets.
To keep warm, Jurgis walks into a Socialist