Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is a highly depressing political novel about Capitalism and Socialism in America during the early 1900's. The novel follows the trials and tribulations of a Lithuanian immigrant, Jurgis Rudkus, as he tries to achieve the American Dream, is ground up and spit out by the Capitalist system, and finally learns the benefits of the Socialist dream. Sinclair bombards the reader with propaganda in the hope that the readers will join the fight of Jurgis and the working class of America, a fight for fair wages and decent working conditions. Sinclair uses Jurgis's struggles to reveal how the Capitalist system exploits everyone possible, and his embracement of Socialism to show the benefits of that movement. .
The novel opens with the wedding of Jurgis and Ona, so that the reader may learn that there are no happy days for the couple. The reader learns about the greed of the saloonkeeper and that to trifle with him will result in even more problems. He "stood in with all the big politics men in the district; and when you found out what it meant to get into trouble with such people, you would know enough to pay what you were told to pay and shut up" (18). The corruption of the system allowed the saloonkeeper to charge whatever prices he wanted. Jurgis and Ona's family invites many people to the wedding; they come only for the free food and drink, leaving without giving a gift to the couple. The selfishness of the immigrants shows how "there must be some subtle poison in the air that one breathed [in America]" (17). A wedding should be a happy occasion, but for Jurgis it is only a reminder of the greed and corruption of Capitalist America.
No matter where Jurgis turned, there was some new strand of the Capitalist web to ensnare him. Jurgis had the greatest chance to succeed in the work-world; he was young, strong and had immense faith in the American Dream. Jurgis believed that he should "take a thing like this as he found it, and do as he was told; to be given a place in it .