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The Jungle

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Upton Sinclair was a poor, young and socialist man hoping to reconstruct the universe using written literature. He was a journalist, a writer of several books and a political and social activist. He had almost became the governor of California but missed with some points. Upton Sinclair lived in Princeton town where he wrote “The Jungle” which is one of the greatest American Novels. He wrote the novel after keen research in the meat processing and packaging industry and published it in 1906. “The Jungle” propelled shockwaves in America and resulted to campaigns for agricultural and labor reforms. Sinclair went to Chicago with a defined purpose of changing the working conditions of the stockyards. He first published this book in a newspaper and decided to publish it as a novel after it gained too much fame in the United States. Sinclair leveled the bitter truth of how rats were used to make sausages in the name of beef. He explained the corruption in the labor market. Officers were allowing butchers to slaughter and sell sick animals to the innocent public for profit. The novel revealed the inhumanity which made meat sellers to sweep guts and filth and pack them as potted ham for their selfish and greedy interests. As an activist and animal-right activist, the author did his best to turn Americans to vegetarians (Sinclair, 1906).

Sinclair used the metaphor of the jungle such as survival for the fittest throughout the novel to reveal how vulnerable workers are at risk of politicians and powerful packers. He represents Mother Nature cruel as she protects the powerful and destroys the weak in the society. The author illustrated his sentiments using the story of Ona and Jurgis who emigrated from Lithuania to Chicago for greener pastures which they believed were in America. They arrived and purposed to work hard for a stable earning and security in Chicago. However, their dreams do not come true as all forces were working day and night against them. Jurgis persist with hopes that all would be well. However, his perseverance does not bear positive fruits since the fighting forces are too strong for him. The truth is revealed to him when he trips up a politician. This is when Jurgis discovers the sacredness of socialism and the evils of capitalism.

Jurgis and his bride Ona and several family members have hopes that they will succeed in Chicago. Jurgis secures a job in the meat packing industry and strengthens the family hope. Before they could leap the fruits of their labor and hopes, homeownership becomes their downfall. The costs of home ownership such as repairs, taxes and interest drown their finances and savings. Therefore, family members have to look for jobs and try to make ends meet. Unfortunately, the vicious Chicago winter, ill health and job seasonal wings make their financial struggles more complicated. Additionally, other circumstances including infidelity, death and illness cause more harm to the family. Each circumstance leads to a choice for survival. All members are slowly changed by the evil deeds of Chicago system (Harold, 2002). Socialism appears to be the main theme in the novel. The author explains a foretaste into the contemptible conditions which the labor force of the Stockyards endures. Jurgis family goes through repeated sufferings which cause overwhelming opus of distressed songs. The family is driven into debt and his body is worn down. His love and life’s zeal are slowly strangled. His nervousness becomes palpable, forcing the reader to sympathize with him.

The author uses horrific depictions in the literature to reveal his themes. This includes a mercifully oblique reference where a child is eaten by rats to death. The novel mostly focuses on Jurgis as the main character, but young laboring people elicit the most empathy. As the family members struggle to support the family, they escape dangerous situations such rape when one little girl is almost raped in an alley (Sinclair, 1906). Young family members sleep on the street and desperately beg for food. “The Jungle” arouses outrange and anger as the reader sympathize with the family. It is a social novel showing how legal immigrants who came to America in such of greener pastures are lied to, stolen from, abused, turned out, ignored and oppressed. Sinclair’s purpose is to peddle socialism in a world which is controlled by big businesses. He views the world to be under the control of rampant businesses which punish the weak people in the society at the favor of the powerful elites and politicians. The last half of the novel is a socialist brochure praising the working class. The author disproves arguments which favor capitalists and presents socialism as the salvation incarnate.

It is hard to read “The Jungle” and fail to cringle on the long passages describing the embarrassing practices which cause the public to eat stained meat and meat products and describing the effects of this contaminated meat which includes diseases and deaths. Arguably, the novel’s most powerful section discusses the impacts of the strikes in Chicago. The strike involves meatpacking houses and this is where the bitter truth is revealed. The author is at the height of his expressive powers (Harold, 2002). He confidently takes the reader for a tour in the meat factories and discloses the disgusting practices and conditions in the factories. This is a powerful action.

The author was undefined on whether he wanted to write about a muckraking investigation or a fiction book. As an advocacy of socialism, Sinclair ended up trying to incorporate both methods, but none was done perfectly. He violates the rule, he shows them and do not tell them which method is applied in fiction. This is evident in Jurgis, the protagonist who is portrayed as a victim of packers as a result of repeated lies from them. Instead of showing how the packers cheat on Jurgis, the author generalized that packers cheated on people. This can mean that Jurgis was a victim with others, but the author rarely shows instances where Jurgis was cheated. Additionally, Sinclair’s event depiction is almost perfunctory. This is inappropriate in a fiction book like “The Jungle”.

The last few chapters in “The Jungle” propose socialism. The author presents socialism as the cure of the societal evils existing in America. He uses adequate reasons and arguments for this proposal which leave the reader satisfied. However, the author has not mentioned about the socialism in the first chapters of the novel. He is explaining something new to the readers. This is confusing and reduces interest as it is out of place in the novel. It would be much better to introduce socialist interest at the beginning of the novel rather than introduce it in the last chapters. Additionally, these last chapters have long speeches made by socialists, but the speeches do not advance the plot of the novel.  Sinclair had a fiction idea at the begging, but mixed it with advocacy and lost both at the end.

The reviewer recommends the novel for those who love American History, classics and those who read for fun. It is a historical book which teaches readers what America was in the early 1990s. It reveals the sufferings the early immigrants went through and the disgusting meat industries. It is presented in a scholarly manner which is reasonably good and easy to follow. Its story line captures the reader’s compassion for various characters leaving suspense to know what happened next. “The Jungle” is a riveting, engrossing and informative novel which was published in the early 1900s, but has remained important even in the twenty first century. “The Jungle” offers a reminder what treats the world is facing today and they are the self-interest, individual protection, abuse of power, hope and meaning. Therefore, the society has advanced. 

In conclusion, Upton Sinclair wrote a well documented novel in 1906 which has remained famous up to date. The novel has three main parts. In the first part, the author introduces a family which immigrates to Chicago because of greener pasture. The family faces many hardships and financial strains despite their hard work, endurance and commitment. In the second part, the author shows how the family members who had suffered in the first chapter make up their minds to join the evil Chicago society after realizing that they live in a jungle. They are completely changed and start behaving like the society there. The criminal business in Chicago is exposed with its disgusting practices in the meat processing and packaging factories. The third part of the novel is political. The politics and the strikes in Chicago changed what was happening there before. The oppressed workers strked and demanded changes. This is the beginning of socialism. The author achieves his purpose by being able to explain why only the fittest survive in the jungle. However, the last part is too political with long political speeches which make no sense to the plot. This is a historical novel which is recommendable for learners, historians and those who love reading for fun.

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