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The Jungle - Book Review

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Essay title: The Jungle - Book Review

America, by the turn of the twentieth century, was regarded as the “Land of Opportunity”, and lured millions of immigrants. These immigrants fled to the United States in search of new and prosperous lives. During the Progressive era, America was at the age of industrialization, and the economy was shifting from agriculture to factories. There were jobs in the factories available to unskilled workers, which were the majority of the immigrants. The industrialists had no problem finding a way to exploit the workers lives. Because of the migration of Americans from farms to cities and the large-scale of immigration, there arose an abundant supply of cheap labor. There was no economic sense in a hazardless workplace; an injured worker was easily replaced by another. Wages were kept low because there was always another worker willing to work for lower wages. The hiring of men and women and children as well, created an excess supply of labor; leaving every worker commanding low wages. With the surplus of workers, factory owners were discouraged to maintain a clean and safe workplace. Being more concerned with making profit, factory owners could care less about the health of the workers or the working environment.

Upton Sinclair concentrates on the meat packing industry in the book The Jungle. The book show how those at the bottom of the economic ladder, who were wage-earners and their families, are at a disadvantage in the capitalist country. The wage-earners are slaves to the sudden wishes of their masters, who are the capitalists who own and run private industries. In this analysis, I will discuss how Sinclair demonstrates various immigrant experiences in the lives of Jurgis and his family and how he portrays the inter-workings of big business and politics. I will also discuss about the meat packing industry that was mentioned in the book.

Jurgis Rudkus takes his family to America in hopes of accomplishing the goal of the American Dream. He and his family want to live Lithuania because of fear that the creditors will take everything that they have. He decided to that he would go to America because of all the great things that he had heard about it, about the idea of being free. He had heard, “In that country, rich or poor, a man was free, it was said: he did not have to go into the army, he did not have to pay out his money to rascally officials- he might do as he pleased, and count himself as good as any other man” (27). Like many immigrants, Jurgis believed in this and wanted to come to the country in hopes of finding the American Dream, where they could work hard and make their way to the top of the ladder, where they would live freely in success.

However, the reality of what America was like was very harsh to most of the immigrants that flocked to it during the Industrial Revolution. For Jurgis and the eleven others he brought with on the voyage, they found that immigrants were often exploited in every way possible because they lacked knowledge of the country and the language. As they set out on the voyage to America, they were tricked by an officer into taking his passport, and another officer arresting him and charging him for it. Jurgis and his family were also cheated out of their savings when they arrived in New York when an agent forced them to stay in his lodge that was much too expensive for them to afford. When Jurgis and his family arrived in a stockyard called Packingtown where Meat Packing Plants were, it showed how much the advantage was taken of all immigrants. Real Estate places would build houses out of poor material, then advertise the old houses as brand new for three times the cost it was to build them. The houses also had charges on interest, taxes, water and insurance that were not explained up front to the immigrants, who were unable to read and comprehend the deeds they would sign. Jurgis’ brawny build quickly gets him a job on the cattle killing beds. The other members of the family soon found jobs, except for the children. They are put into school. At first, Jurgis is happy with his job and America, but he soon learns that America is plagued by corruption, dishonesty and bribery. He is forced to work at high speeds for long hours with low pay, and so is the rest of the family. Jurgis is also cheated out of his money several times. The children must leave school and go to work to help the family survive. This means that the children will never receive the education needed to rise above this. There is no room for complaints, because like I mentioned earlier in the introduction, all the jobs were paid at low wages due to high number of demand for work.

The working conditions for these immigrants at the meat packing plants were shocking and displayed how badly in need of change they were. Workers in the factory that did unskilled labor would be paid only somewhere between a fifteen to twenty-five cents

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