Throughout most of the nineteenth century, the United States experienced phenomenal growth and change to become a powerful nation and influence in the first world region. Physically, the United States continued to expand with the belief that created an obligation to spread and acquire land all the way to the Pacific Coast by almost any means necessary. Economically, new inventions and strategies helped to improve farming methods and with the completion of a continental railroad in 1869, markets on the East Coast were soon be able to obtain products from almost all across the nation. Despite major conflicts, such as the Civil War, the United States still kept its perception as an equal and prosperous nation, which attracted many immigrants that were seeking freedom and opportunity from the hardships faced in their own countries. It was an American dream that attracted people to the United States--the chance of free enterprise, equal opportunity, and freedom to strive for every accomplishment. The dream was for the most part a realistic nightmare during the industrial era around the last half of the nineteenth century. It became known as "The Gilded Age" when most of the American minorities and impoverished were ruled by capitalist pigs
In The Jungle, the main character named Jurgis sees that everyone who comes into contact with capitalism is either taken advantage of in every way possible, or becomes greedy, dishonest, and materialistic, both of which Jurgis had experienced first hand, seeing the deceitfulness used by the political machine in the packing yards of Chicago. As the elections come around every year, Jurgis is bribed to vote under many different names, and is paid four dollars, equal to a week worth of work. Later in the novel, Jurgis becomes involved in the political machine. He becomes one of the henchmen for the political powers in the packing yards. After he gets put in jail, he is forced to buy his way out, which costs him everything he has. After he is forced to live like a tramp again, he feels helpless about his life. He misses how he used to live extravagantly, and wonders how he could have lived without it. “They were beaten; they had lost the game, they were swept aside. It was not less tragic because it was so sordid, because that it had to do with wages and grocery bills and rents. They had dreamt of freedom; of a chance to look about them and learn something; to be decent and clean, to see their child group up to be strong. And now it was all gone-it would never be!" (The Jungle, Upton Sinclair, 163)
In conclusion, The Jungle was an extremely interesting book to read after undergoing the boring beginning. Sinclair's in depth details during many of the scenes were rather graphic. The people who worked in the packing houses might as well have been slaves. However, if they were slaves they would at least have been given a place to stay and enough food to remain able to work. The situation of these people seemed completely hopeless, but the truth finally came out and helped improve some things. But still neither of these situations could have helped their dignity, for that had to be completely lost. "There is one kind of prison where the man is behind bars, and everything that he desires is outside; and there is another kind where things are behind bars, and the man is outside." (The Jungle, Upton Sinclair, 337)
Another theme used by Sinclair is that industrial capitalism is an efficient, impersonal killing machine that has absolutely no regard for human life. "Jurgis could see all the truth now-could see himself through the whole long course of events, the victim of ravenous vultures that had torn into his vitals and devoured him; of fiends that had racked and tortured him, mocking him, meantime, jeering in his face." (The Jungle, Upton Sinclair, 212) This can be shown by the brutal treatment of the people that work in the plant. Sinclair writes: Worst of any, however, were the fertilizer-men, and those who served in the cooking rooms. These people could not be shown to the visitor, for the odor of the fertilizer-man would scare any ordinary visitor at a hundred yards; and for the other men, who worked in tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the
Some topics in this essay:
Upton Sinclair, Capitalism, The Jungle, Metaphor, Muckraker, Socialism, Meat Inspection Act, Jurgis, Chicago, Marija,
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