Upton Sinclairs novel The Jungle is a book of hardship in which Sinclair uses the greed and apathy of large trusts and corporations to further back his support of socialism. He does this by supplying real life examples to discredit capitalism and purvey a sense of helplessness among immigrants including: The constant search and protection of a job for all the characters, the extent which characters will go just to survive, and by the sense of unity found through socialism. America to Jurgis Rudkus, the main protagonist, is seen at first as a beacon of hope where he can go and make his riches. By the end of the novel it is seen as a dark destructive force that consumes all in its path and must be stopped. Throughout the novel Jurgis and many of the members of his make-shift family are plagued by a never ending series of injuries that prevent them from working.
In The Jungle a job means surviving. Without a job there is no chance that they would be alive In the beginning of the novel Jurgis has no trouble finding a job. He is strong and a dedicated worker often saying ???I will work Harder??? (22). At first this hold true, Jurgis borders on arrogance, hating unions, thinking everyone else is lazy and slow. Later on however, years of working have taken their tolls on Jurgis who is left slow and weak. Through unsafe and unsanitary working conditions many people fall sick and are unable to ever take a day off and recover. Later on in the novel Ona Rudkus is raped by her boss on the threat that she will be fired. This desperation that she has fallen on simply to keep an income shows how much those few dollars a day means to their survival as well as the prevalent corruption common in people with positions of power. Sinclair shows the hopeless plight of the laborers to depict the uncaring coldness capitalism brings to those who are the key pushers in it.
Some people chose to go a different route in order to survive. Marija Berczynskas, Onas cousin, decides to try prostitution as a last resort. As a result of this career choice Marija becomes addicted to morphine which adds another variable in her fight to survive. She explains that many of the women who work as prostitutes were kidnapped and had the drugs forced on them in order to keep them from leaving. When none of the adults have jobs they rely on their children to buy food. They are forced to take the basic right of an education away from their children simply to hopefully make enough to buy food. This is the last thing the main characters wish. They possibly know that without an education their children will end up in the same wage slavery theyre in now. At one point in the novel Marija remarks that for all their trials and sufferings they were not living. ???This was in truth not living; it was scarcely even existing, and they felt that it was too little for the price they paid. They were willing to work all the time; and when people did their best, ought they not to be able to keep alive??? (117). This is one of Sinclairs main disputes with capitalism. These hardworking and dedicated people spend their lives toiling away, never enjoying it, so that someone else can get rich. In return they should be able to at least live a healthy life without worrying about basic necessities. The cold face of capitalism portrayed in The Jungle show an emotionless power that cares only for the profits.
When Jurgis stumbles into a socialist political meeting he is at his lowest point. Everyone he once loved is dead, hes starving and out of a job, and hes simply looking for a warm place. This is by far the most propagated section of the novel, downright praising socialism as the workers class. They detail every hardship Jurgis has faced and are seeking a way to make things better for him. The injustice served throughout the novel is a basic ploy advocating the disbandment of the capitalistic way and the adoption of one socialistic. Jurgis is embraced for once, without anyone trying to kick him out. Hes called comrade and treated equally. Sinclairs appeal to the working class is evident and he continues to make these appeals throughout the novel. At one point Jurgiss internal narrative says ???If we are the greatest nation the sun ever shone upon, it would seem to be mainly because we have been able to goad our wage-earners to this pitch of frenzy??? (237). Here the point is being made that capitalism only works because of the wool pulled over the eyes of the working class. Much of the novel is devoted to promoting socialism and this is a key way that Sinclair uses the novel as a support.
The Jungle was, during its time, one of the biggest stories ever written that truly played a key role in helping make America what it is today. Upton Sinclair used this novel as a surrogate in which to plug his own political beliefs by depicting the cruel injustices done to the people who drive this country. He did this by depicting a very real situation in which a job is the difference between life or death, and the struggles individuals would endure and sometimes put themselves in to simply stay alive. He presented a caring political party that followed the teachings of Jesus such as: turn the other cheek, and to love all men. In this it seemingly was a replacement for not just capitalism but religion as well. These factors combined within the book to create a situation that one couldnt help but sympathize with. Feeling and joining in the plight of a desperate individual who has no hope of survival due to the uncaring attitude of capitalism is enough to change many ways of thought.
Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. New York City: Doubleday, 1906. Print.