The Jungle Written by Upton Sinclair
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The Jungle, written by Upton Sinclair was a very touching and motivating story. Sinclair aimed for our hearts, but instead, he hit our stomachs. The Jungle is a story of hardships and trouble, some successes and many failures as a family tries to achieve the “American Dream.” In this book, “The Jurgis Ruckus myth of failure is the other side of the Horatio Algers myth of success.” (xxvi)

Although this book was written about the hardships of a family, it was not just a story for one to read and feel sympathy for the family, but it had many “real-life” reasons behind the events that went on and happened. Sinclair wanted to open the eyes of people and make them aware of what was going on, and ultimately, wanted to start a revolution to change the political system from capitalism to socialism.

The time period was about 1905-06. Immigrants, such as Jurgis and his family, came over to America in hopes of creating a new life and to live out the “American Dream.” Little did they know what they were up against, and just how hard this “American Dream” life was. Families came to find new lives, decent jobs, save up money, live in a great house, have food on the table and yet, many things hindered them from that. According to Horatio Alger the “America Dream” was a dream of going from rags to riches. One could only achieve it with lots of hard work and motivation and self determination, and in the end, Algers theory of the “American Dream” is proved to be wrong, as shown in many ways.

The life of Jurgis and his family shows in many ways how much of a struggle it was to fulfill the “American Dream.” There were many, many immigrant families that flocked over to America, and the first thing they did was try and find jobs; only, it was not as easy as it seemed, and when one finally did find a job, the working conditions were way over bearing and lead people to work themselves to death at times.

(Jurgis looking for a job) “He stood in the doorway, looking mournfully on, seeing his friends and companions at work, and feeling like and outcast. Then he went out and took his place with the mob of the unemployed But there was no work for him…He wandered all day through the buildings; in a week or two, when he had been all over the yards, and into every room to which he has access, and learned that there was not a job anywhere… there was nothing more for him to do but go with the crowd in the morning and keep in the front row and look eager.” (p. 148-149)

This insert above is a prime example of the hardships of finding jobs during this time. So many people were looking for jobs and the demand for them was a lot higher than the supply of them. Once people found jobs, the working conditions were terrible. A new idea came about called “speeding up” where once the workers reached a pace, then, they would speed them up more and working at outrageous speeds. If one could not keep up with the speed and the job, they would get the boot and be replaced by someone else looking for a job.

“It was the first time in his life he had ever really worked…and that he had ever had anything to do which took all he had in him… (He) stood with the rest up in the gallery and watched the men on the killing beds, marveling at their speed and power…and never occurred to one to think of the flesh-and-blood side of it – that is, not until he actually got down in the pit and took his coat off… The pace they set here was one that called for every faculty of a man… there was never a one instants rest, for his hand or his eye or his brain… (He) saw how they managed it: there were portions of work that determined the pace of the rest…they worked under the eye of the bosses and worked like possessed men… speeding up the gang if any man could not keep up with the pace, there were hundreds outside begging to cry.” (p. 70-71)

Not only was it hard to find a job, but working conditions were horrendous as mentioned before. There were no laws set as to how many hours one could work, minimum wage, or laws set as to how old one had to be to work, and this lead to many problems. Bosses could choose how much you got paid an hour, and usually, it was next to nothing. The “American Dream” said that the harder one works, the more money one will make, the better things one could have. This was proven false also. Men, women and children seemed to have worked endless hours with no breaks, due to the fact if they needed a break or took one, their spot was likely to be filled by someone else when they came back. On a few occasions throughout The Jungle one will find where Jurgis says “I will work more” or “I will work harder” and that is exactly what everyone told themselves that they would do, in hopes of fulfilling the “American Dream” and in the end, it shows that it is not the case.

The cleanliness was terrible too; nothing was sterile, and every part of the animal was used even if it was dropped on the floor, spit on, rats in it, you name it. The uncleanliness of these meat processing places is the prime example of filth of capitalism. Recalling what a prior teacher in high school said, the so called “meat” was packaged into nice shiny metal cans, or made to look nice and edible, but inside was the worst thing ever. The outer packaged tried covering the filth on the inside, which was what capitalism looked like. Capitalism seemed like a good idea, but as time went on, people realized just how filthy capitalism was. The follow is an insert to give an idea of just how filthy the work conditions were and how unsanitary everything was, including how they handled the meat and what they did:

“There was no heat in the killing beds; the en might exactly as well have worked out of the doors all winter… they would tie their feet in newspapers and old sacks, and these would be soaked in blood and frozen… now and then, when the bosses were not looking you would see them plunging their feet and ankles into the steaming hot carcass of the steer…” (p. 98)


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Lots Of Hard Work And Working Conditions. (April 3, 2021). Retrieved from