The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclairs title to his novel The Jungle relates to the themes of his book in many ways. Some themes to the Jungle are poverty, deception, and misery. To illustrate, in a jungle, its chaotic, there are trees and bushes scattered everywhere like people. Every beast and creature is out for it's own survival. The strong beasts survive, and the weak die. The former was the life and story of Jurgis Rudkus's. He was a Lithuanian immigrant who migrated to Packingtown in Chicago for a better life. In Lithuania, Jurgis, and his fiancé Ona dreamed of having a house with running water. Jurgis had heard of success stories of American people; however, he believed that success would come easy to him. He did not understand the challenges that would lie ahead of him. To make things harder, family members related to Jurgis and Ona also migrated with them to Packingtown. Their names are the following, Dede Antanas (Jurgis's father), Marija (Ona's cousin), Elzbieta (Ona's stepmother), Stanislovas (Elzbieta's son), Vilimas, (Elzbieta's son), Nikalojus (Elzbieta's son), Kristoforas and Juozapas (Elzbieta's crippled sons), Kotrina (Elzbieta's daughter) (SparkNotes Editors). Jurgis and Ona had a huge wedding celebration upon their arrival in America in the early 1900's. Many family and friends came to the celebration, and they enjoyed beer, meat, and great foods. However, the reality was that they spent all their money on the wedding celebration, and they had no place to live. Soon after, Jurgis, Ona, and the
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family moved in with Mrs. Jukniene who was a widow that managed a boardinghouse. Her house was filthy and vermin was present, yet they had shelter (Sinclair, 35). Jurgis was really excited during this time period because he got a job at Browns in the Stockyards slicing beef and pork. He was so happy that he ran home and told Ona and the family. Jurgis did not understand that his job was not guaranteed. He was amazed of Brown's huge factory machines and assembly lines. Jurgis worked hard without a break. The working conditions were unhealthy, dangerous, and uncomfortable. Sometimes it would become freezing in the meat packing plants, and the workers would stick their legs in freshly killed cattle carcasses to keep warm (Sinclair, 99). Other times the temperatures would reach over a hundred degrees inside the factory, and the working men were not allowed to wipe a drop of sweat off their brow as they labored. Meat packing workers labored for ten hours a day and six days a week (Nash, 557). Many men accidentally cut themselves at work with sharp knives as they labored. Their fate without a job would be homelessness, starvation, and eventually death. Thousands stood at the factory gates hoping to get chosen to work for the day. Only a handful would be picked, and the rest would be left out in the cold to die. That was the sad reality for the majority of workers in packingtown. As for Jurgis, Ona, and the family, most of them got jobs. Ona went to work in a meat factory; Marija got a job too at another factory painting meat cans. Jurgis's dad, Dede, really wanted to contribute so, he went to work. Elzbieta stayed home to watch the kids. Soon after, they all saved up and saw an advertisement for an opportunity to own a new home. Sadly, the salesman who sold them the home deceived them. He lied and said that the home was new when it really was a decade old (Sinclair, 59). The whole family was very happy that they had a home, and they felt a sense of accomplishment. Things were
going so good that they sent the kids to school. Jurgis and Ona had a son during this time, and his name was Antanas. Unfortunately, circumstances would change quickly for Jurgis, Marija, Ona and the family. They lost their jobs several times and would be rehired infrequently. They often became sick because of the unsanitary conditions at the stockyards, yet they would rarely miss a day of work because of the fear of losing their jobs (Sinclair, 90). Sometimes Jurgis would carry Ona and himself to work 10 miles in four feet of snow. Other times Ona and Jurgis had to miss work, and they suffered with anxiety because they did not know if they would be able to keep their home. To make things worse Jurgis's dad Dede dies of a lung infection. The loss of income brings more panic to Jurgis and the family. Little Stanislovas was forced to quit school and work at Durhams. Nothing disturbed the reformers of Jurgis's era more than the sight of little children working long hours in meat factories (Nash, 632). Marija lost her Job, and her savings were swindling down. One day Ona did no show up at home, and Jurgis became worried and confused because he had no clue were she might be. Suddenly, she came home the next morning at 7:00AM. Jurgis questioned her as to why she did not come home. Ona told him that the weather was too bad. A couple of weeks later Ona did not come home again. Jurgis was again confused. When Ona did come home, she confessed to Jurgis that she was having an affair with Phil Connor, Ona's boss. She said that Phil pressured and lured her to sexual acts out of fear of losing her job and home (Sinclair, 185). Jurgis became red, and his veins began to pop out of his body. He was now on a quest to severely hurt Phil. As Jurgis arrived at Ona's work, he searched for Phil, and when he found him, he rushed and punched him to the ground. Employees at Ona's factory quickly pulled Jurgis off Phil. Jurgis had pieces of Phil's flesh in his mouth (Sinclair, 188). The police came and took Jurgis to jail for a month. Jurgis spent his Christmas in
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jail, and he did not know during his time incarcerated that Ona, and the family had lost their home. Ona, Marija, Elzbieta, and the family were forced into the same boarding house that they first stayed in when they arrived in America. Once Jurgis was released from jail. He went straight to his home looking for Ona and found out that other tenants now lived at the house (Sinclair, 215). He again was clueless and sad that he lost his home, and he had no place to live. At that moment, he thought of Grandmother Majauszkiene, a friend of the family. Jurgis rushed to her house, and Majauszkiene immediately told him that Ona, and the family went to the boardinghouse (Sinclair, 217). Jurgis went to the boarding house and heard screams from the doorway. He knew something was wrong. Jurgis realized that Ona was giving birth; however, she was losing too much blood and dying. Sadly, Madame Haupt, the midwife was not able to save Ona's life. Jurgis became numb, and his new goal was to provide for little Antanas. Sadly, Antanas died from drowning, and Jurgis was tormented by his bad luck. He stormed out of the house and turned to alcohol. He was now a tramp. He wondered the streets penniless sleeping in abandoned hallways and doorways. He begged for food and sometimes got it at farmhouses. Jurgis even got lucky a few times and landed a job, yet it was never permanent. He was even given a one hundred dollar bill from a rich young man. Unfortunately, when Jurgis went to break it for change at a bar, the bartender cashed it and gave Jurgis a one-dollar bill back (Sinclair, 302). Jurgis was so furious that he rushed the bartender. The cops came and took Jurgis to Jail again, yet this time he would be bailed out by his friend Jack Duane whom he met while incarcerated. Jurgis did not mind being in jail because it was warm inside, and he received free meals and housing. Life was better in Jail over homelessness. Jack introduced Jurgis to a life of crime. The two of them
would mug people at night to get quick money (Sinclair, 306). They spent the money on women and booze. Jurgis was missing the family that he once had, so he tracked down Marija, and found out that she had gone into prostitution. Regardless of the progressives effort to end prostitution; they failed to do anything about it, knowing that its roots were imbedded in poverty (Nash, 640). And to make matters worse, she was addicted to Morphine. Jurgis felt sad and powerless over the situation. Marija informed Jurgis that Stanislovas got locked in a room overnight at Durhams, and he was eaten alive by rats. In addition, she told Jurgis that Elizbieta and the remaining children moved in with a family friend. During this time, Jurgis met a man named Buck Halloran who introduced Jurgis to voting and politics. Jurgis got involved and handed out pamphlets about nominees for the election campaigns. Consequently, Jurgis ruined his chances in politics because he saw Phil Connor and beat him up again. Jurgis's fortune would turn for the better when he went to a decorated hall, which he did not know was a Socialist rally (Sinclair, 347). Jurgis was falling asleep while the speaker spoke at the rally, and someone sitting next to him bumped his elbow. When Jurgis became more alert, the speaker's words began penetrating his soul and brought excitement. The man was speaking about an end to poverty and work slavery. He spoke about equality. The social justice progressives were concerned about neighborhood parks and playgrounds, and they had a desire to pursue more beautiful neighborhoods (Nash, 646). Jurgis was asked if he wanted to become a Socialist, and Jurgis gladly accepted the invitation. Soon after, Jurgis got involved and met another man named Tommy Hind who employed Jurgis and encouraged him to tell his story of struggle to guests of the Socialist movement. The Socialists would have a huge impact on how conditions would change in the
meat packing plants. In 1906, congress passed the Meat Inspection Act, which enforced federal inspection and sanitary conditions in all companies selling meat (Nash, 650). In the end, Jurgis was a Socialist till he died, and he was happy to be employed at Hind's Hotel making little money. He was a different man now. He had a sense of gratitude. Clearly, Jurgis's life was a Jungle; he suffered losses, depressions, and seemed to be on a path through the Jungle where there were thousands of men, and every man was out for himself. During the storms in the Jungle many men died, yet Jurgis stood tall and endured, and in the end, he would be a survivor.
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