Thea Boyle's Reviews > The Jungle

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
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Jun 03, 12


Learning about the late 1800s is covered in all the U.S. history classes at Chardon High School. Reviewing the people who have impacted the world, events that formed geography and the dominant forces of newly formed government make up the main curriculum. Many students find it difficult to focus, stay awake or even stay still while enduring lecture after lecture, day after day. It is hard to get a real grasp on the atmosphere of the past and the true lifestyle through 12 font print, layered in a never-ending textbook. During the late 1800s, when industrialization was taking hold, a rivalry of capitalism and socialism were influencing the mass majority of immigrants arriving in America. Corrupt government figures started taking over and attempted to control the immigrants’ lives through working conditions, housing placement, and personal needs with restricted with unfair salaries. Upton Sinclair, a fearless crusader for the rights of the workingman, using literature as his weaponry, became appalled at the barbarous conditions the workers were being subjected to in theChicagomeat packing factories.

He set out on a mission, filled with hindrances, to take down the greedy giant of industrialization and reveal capitalism of its true corruption. He succeeded is his goals with his novel The Jungle published in 1906.

The Jungle depicts the life of a Lithuanian immigrant named Jurgis and his family as they face the depravity, despair, and harshness of the newly formedAmerica. Jurgis chose to face these conditions for his family’s sake, even though everyday at the meat factory put his life in peril through disease, injury, or distasteful co-workers. Mr. Leikala, a history and social studies teacher here at Chardon High, agreed with Jurgis’ resilient decision stating “I definitely would have worked. The immigrants were already at a disadvantage in terms of acquiring jobs. If I would have been an immigrant, I would have been happy for the “opportunity” as bad as it had been.” Like Jurgis, Mr. Leikala would have faired the lurid working conditions of the factories for the better good of his family, which defines an honorable character.

Throughout the book, Jurgis must fight for his rights under the weight of the capitalist eradication movement among the government officials. ‘And he was as tough as a pine-knot, and with the appetite of a wolf. Nothing had hurt him, and nothing could hurt him; he had come through all the suffering and depravation unscathed- only shriller-voiced and more determined in his grip upon life.’

The Jungle had such an impact on the unsuspecting public, it became recognized as one of the most accurate novels ever to illustrate the horrors of the Chicago meat packing factories. “Roosevelt got an advanced copy of The Jungle and pushed for the Meat Inspection Act to be passed in 1906, which then lead to the FDA.” Mr. Leikala added.

The novel was designed, not only to overtly show the ‘guts’ of the factories, but also to push the idea that Socialism is the cure for any evils produced by Capitalism. Capitalism comes with the stereotype of corruption and only looking out for the rich filling their pockets, but not all blame is to fall on the concept itself. “The concept of capitalism opened itself up for the people to take advantage of it; so in a sense the companies ‘played by the rules’. Still, they could have done a better job of supervising the conditions. They had a responsibility to the consumers, that they didn’t obey,” was Mr. Leikala’s final note
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