The Jungle: Analysis and Plot of the Novel

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A house across the river from the beautiful Chicago scenery, a beautiful family, and a wealth of opportunities are what Jurgis Rudkis and his family had initially thought of America. Many migrants traveled hundreds and thousands of miles abroad in cramped, dense, disease-ridden ships with aspirations of coming to the land of the free where new possibilities would open up for them if they worked hard and stayed true to their American dream. But dreams have a nasty habit of going bad when people aren’t conscious of reality. In The Jungle, a family from Lithuania set their goals toward America to escape the generational poverty European immigrants had come to face. This novel informs readers about the harsh realities of poverty from the working class during the early 1900s. During this essay, I will evaluate what the title ‘The Jungle’ means metaphorically as well as exposing the meat industry and their practices and, finally, how our government managed to crack down on meatpacking plants and instill the pure food and drug act.

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The Jungle, as depicted in the title, is what embodies Chicago; Packingtown, in particular, is what made it the Jungle. In Mirriam Webster’s dictionary, the word ‘Jungle’ defined in character terms as ‘something that baffles or frustrates by its tangled or complex character.’ The definition was the case throughout the novel, and the survival of the fittest was everybody’s state of mind. The humble immigrant from Lithuania looked for new horizons along with his family. As he was in Packingtown, he looked for a steady job, and Jurgis had found it in a meatpacking industry, though, he soon realized the hours were brutal, wages were low and often worked with dangerous machinery. Additionally, Jurgis had to face sickness, starvation, poverty, wrongdoing, and even the passing of a family member. Many families from different nationalities came for Packingtown, ranging from Germans, Polish, Irish, and even Bohemians. Eventually, all of the following families claimed to have worked under terrible conditions in the town. Often men would not get any work, and their families were the ones to pay with no food or medicine to comfort them. Men hauled hundreds of pounds of meat and workers as well had tuberculosis and spat blood because of the many diseases that workers had contracted, where the spit had landed, the excrement fell near the meat. In The Jungle, there is plenty of metaphors and personifications of dissecting of human instincts and primal actions; many try to fight for themselves. As I stated at the beginning of this paragraph, The Jungle was not a literal jungle but a fight for survival with people having feral instincts.

People are viewed as a blank canvas, they can easily be dyed to any color with influence. In this case, Jurgis was a gray canvas. Jurgis Rudkis was a caring and determined person but a dull yet, eager man. He didn’t let anything get in his way of achieving his goals and be able to provide for his family and was ‘confident in his ability to get work for himself, unassisted by anyone.’ Jurgis does anything and everything to achieve his goals. No matter what he must endure, he always manages to keep his head high and keeps striving toward his ambitions. Jurgis’s determination is also displayed when he tries to make a good impression for his boss and as well proves he is not unwilling to work and ‘promptly reports for work in the morning.’ Jurgis is also a compassionate man, his primary goal is to protect Ona, and when he reaches America, he has the enthusiasm to approach at what he does. Despite the appalling conditions in the meat factories and hardships, his end-goal was to keep Ona Rudkis and his family prosperous. When he lost his job, he earned money, not in ordinary means; although he does not do this for himself, it is for the welfare of Ona and the family. Even though he inevitably fails because of the wheels of capitalism, he did everything in his power to be an ideal husband.

More than a hundred years ago, a muckraker or better known as journalist for social justice named Upton Sinclair wrote the book The Jungle to depict the poverty of the working class, the unsanitary conditions of workers in the meat packing industry, the lack of social support and corruption of people who possess power.   

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