“The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair

“The
Jungle” by Upton Sinclair

Born
in 1878, Sinclair grew up in a humble background in Baltimore, Maryland.  Although his family was famous, it had
financial issues. His family background inspired him in becoming a socialist.
His parents came from different background, whereby, his mother came from an
affluent family while his father came from a humble family. His father’s
lifestyle contributed to their financial problems as he was an alcoholic.
Sinclair took after his mother who was a non-alcoholic; he experienced two
different financial worlds (Coodley 56). He visited his mother’s family where
he experienced a wealthy lifestyle compared to the life of poverty back at his
home. Jurgis started his writing profession at the age of fourteen years.  He attended New York College, and later
Columbia University. He had to finance his education using money earned from
writing for newspapers and magazines.  He
was an influential socialist, and he was among the founders of the Intercollegiate
Socialist Society.

Additionally,
he was inspired by investigative journalists, who were vocal about corruption
in the government as well as industry. The Jungle is one of his investigative
works, whereby, he focuses on a young Lithuanian immigrant (Coodley 100). The
young immigrant works in the stockyard of Chicago. Sinclair highlights the
non-conducive working areas that the young immigrant was forced to work in; his
work was received with a lot of uproar from the public.  He highlighted the terrible conditions that
the meat packers worked; he also exposed the unhealthy meat that was sold to
the public. The story triggered major reforms, whereby the Congress enacted the
Pure and Drug Act of 1906. The act was meant to regulate the food products that
were consumed in the country.

The
first chapter of the book “The Jungle” starts off with a wedding between two
Lithuanian immigrants. Jurgis Rudkus and his fiancée Ona Lukoszaite hold a
traditional Lithuanian wedding in Packingtown, Chicago’s meatpacking district.
The guests enjoy the traditional dances, and they all seem excited about the
wedding that they did not notice the small flaws (Sinclair 7). However, Ona is
worried about the cost of the wedding as she notices that everyone is leaving
without offering them any gifts. However, Jurgis tries to calm her, assuring
her that he will work hard to pay the needed bills. In his book, Sinclair
highlights the strict working conditions that the workers had to adhere to, for
instance, most of the male guests at Jurgis wedding were forced to leave the
ceremony early as they risked losing part of their pay or job due to lateness
(Sinclair 65). During that time finding a job was not easy, hence, no one could
risk losing his job.

Jurgis
and his family move to Chicago to look for a better life. However, on arrival,
they discover that life is not as good as they had expected (Sinclair 46). They
are bound to live in poor conditions and all the family members including the
young ones are forced to look for jobs so that the family can keep its rented
house. Jurgis and his family experience hardships while in Chicago, especially
after his father’s death. The story highlights various issues that the
immigrants went through the progressive era, for instance, there were issues of
child labor as well as the trade of women to prostitution. Young children from
Jurgis family were forced to work so as to help the family (Sinclair 133). On
the other hand, Jurgis’ wife was raped and forced into prostitution by her
employer. After he realizes that his wife has been raped, he goes ahead and
attacks Ona’s boss. This leads him to prison where he is accused of aggravated
assault. His family sinks into more financial problems as he was the biggest
earner in the family. Other family members also lose their jobs, and they are
forced to either beg or sell newspapers in the city. Another relation of the
book and the progressive era was the risen issue of alcohol consumption among
the immigrants (Sinclair 620). They believed that the only way they could deal
with their problems was through alcohol consumption.

 After Jurgis is released, he finds that his
family had been evicted from their house. His wife had given birth to a child,
and both of them were deteriorating conditions. Both his wife and child die and
this push Jurgis into becoming an alcoholic. Sinclair uses his book to persuade
the public to sympathize with the immigrants. He tries to highlight their story
and convince individuals that they are not aliens (Sinclair 450). He tells about
their culture and values, one of the customs that is emphasized in the book
concerns family values. Jurgis and his family stay together and work to ensure
that everyone has a good life.   However,
some people had adopted the culture of capitalism. They cared about their
individual gain, for instance, some of them were corrupt and dishonest.

The
story causes uproar among the public, and they demand significant reforms.
President Theodore Roosevelt gets concerned about the situation, and he
establishes an investigation into the meatpacking industry (Coodley 120). The
book helps in changing the beef industry as well as other companies producing
consumable products. The firms had avoided federal regulations; the Congress
passed an act to regulate the industries. The law allowed the sentencing of the
industries that went against the laws.

The
article Poverty blamed on bad housing by Helen L. Parrish highlights the
housing issues that people in Philadelphia went through during the 1900s.
According to the article, poverty is linked to poor housing. Investigations
showed that many people lived in houses that were not habitable. Most of the
people who lived in such houses were unemployed which was mostly contributed by
their incapacity to work due to poor health conditions (Parrish N.p). For
instance, the visitor from the society of organized charity found a father who
could not find a job due to his rheumatism. Most of the children in these
families could not attend school as their parents could not afford.  The families could not also afford medical
care. The society could not help such families; however, some organizations
could try to find ways of helping them.

According
to the article “is Philadelphia prepared for peace?” another problem that
people in Philadelphia faced was production. 
War had interfered with the industrial sector in the town. During that
period, the city experienced a boom in the manufacture; therefore, there were
various problems on how it would handle its doubled output (Is PHILADELPHIA
Prepared for Peace N.p).  Another issue
that the town faced was how it would ensure that it maintained healthy and
economic consumption. During that time, Philadelphia was preparing for peace,
which was another issue that it was faced with. According to the article, the
financial problems that the city faced made the process of maintaining peace
complex. It was difficult to maintain a balanced distribution of resources in
all the sectors. There was fear that the competitive issues would affect the
city’s peace as everyone was demanding for goods and opportunity.

It
is apparent that immigrants went through a lot of suffering. Apart from living
in deplorable conditions, they did not enjoy any rights. Workers worked in poor
conditions, and they were not offered any protection (Sinclair 71).  For instance, Jurgis got hurt while at work
and instead of being offered sick leave, he was laid down. He was not given any
compensation and despite being the primary bread winner the company did not
mind about what he would do. They were not offered any medical cover, and they
had to cater for their medication.  It is
also apparent that women trafficking were prevalent during the period as
Jurgis’ wife is forced by her employer to participate in prostitution.

 It also shows that the immigrant women were
not respected. Onas’ boss rapes her, and after his husband confronts him, the
authority does not mind about the case. Instead, her husband is thrown in jail
due to assault (Sinclair 630). It is also apparent that rape case was not a big
issue in the American government. Ona’s employer is not arrested even after
raping her and forcing her into prostitution. It is shocking to see what the
immigrants went through so as to achieve the American dream. Some had to take
up different jobs so as to afford housing. However, although they went through
all the sufferings, they did not lose hope as they continued to find ways to
survive. It was also apparent that most of these individuals preserved their
culture. For instance, Jurgis and his wife celebrate a Lithuanian wedding
despite living in America. I liked reading the book, and it helped understand
the different issues that the immigrants had to adhere to so as to survive.

Works
Cited

“Is
PHILADELPHIA Prepared for Peace?” Evening Public Ledger-Philadelphia, 13
Jan. 1919.

Web.
28 June 2016.

Coodley, Lauren.
Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual. , 2013.
Print.

Parrish, Helen
L. “Povert Blamed on Bad Housing.” Evening Public
Ledger-Philadelphia
. N.p.,

9
Oct. 1919. Web. 28 June 2016.

Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. Waiheke Island: Floating Press, 2009. Internet resource.

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