The Jungle: A Historical Perspective

Upton Sinclair's the Jungle is a simple story about a family of Lithuanian immigrants, and how the Man spoils their fun. In a historical perspective, the writer, Upton Sinclair, was a socialistic journalist, who wanted to portray the bourgeois in a bad light. Thus, in a fit of muckraking, he produced this hymnal to the distribution of wealth. In this review I will present the long and short ends of the stick.

First, the short end, which I borrowed from Book-A-Minute: "Bad things happen. Worse things happen. Better things happen. Awful things happen. Jurgis discovers socialism and gets all happy." THE END

Now for the long end, which pretty much fills up all the gaps, but pretty much is the story:

An immigrant from Lithuania, Jurgis Rudkus, and his family go to America in the middle of the Gilded Age. Jurgis faces social injustices, and through such interactions, the book's theme is revealed: the support of socialism over capitalism. Jurgis learns soon that he alone can't earn enough to support his entire family, in spite of working harder. Soon the entire family is working as well in an attempt to cover expenses. However, this proves itself to be too dangerous and detrimental. Jurgis becomes hardened by his bad experiences as he realizes that, in the capitalist society that he was living in, there is no justice; hard work is not justly rewarded, and instead corruption is. Soon he is injured on the job and is forced to stay home for two months while his mangled foot heals. Upon his return he finds himself replaced. Desperate, he takes a position at the glue factory. His wife is pregnant, his family is working themselves to the bone, and the bills are mounting. Jurgis turns to drinking. Things get worse: he learns that his wife has been forced to have sex with her boss, Connor. Jurgis, in a rage, attacks him at the Packinghouse and is arrested for battery. He spends a month in jail, where he meets Jack Duane, who introduces him to a life of crime. When Jurgis gets out of jail, everyone has lost his or her jobs and the house is lost also. Soon Ona is having a child, but because of the lack of funds to pay for proper care, both she and the child die in labor. His son drowns, many family members have died and the remnant is scattered. Jurgis takes to the country to become a tramp, but as winter approaches he knows he must return to the city once again. Jurgis becomes a beggar. After receiving $100 from Freddie Jones, the son of rich Old Man Jones, he goes into a bar and gets into another altercation, this time with the bartender, and is again arrested. Soon he turns to Jack Duane to enter a life of crime. However, another encounter with his wife's boss brings out his true self again, the man who stands up for his moral convictions. After beating him again, he is arrested and jumps bail. By pure luck he wanders into a socialist meeting while looking for food and shelter. There his life begins a change in earnest. He learns at that meeting what the working class can do to make a difference. Soon after he reunites with his daughter Marjia, who became a prostitute to support the remnant of the family. The story closes with a happy socialist ending: Jurgis gets a job at a hotel run by socialists and seals his fate. He becomes an avid socialist, and he and Marjia pick up the pieces of their lives to make everything better.

Thus, we see here that The Jungle is cliched to the max. Sinclair attempts to show us the horror of horrors that is the capitalist world, and while he does it, he tries to make socialists look like the 12 Apostles. Can anyone detect a little bias here? My personal response to this was that of initial disgust, and eventual boredom, as the repetitive descriptions of the wretchedness of the workers, including the nauseating mental images of really bad meat eventually become monotonous. Sinclair didn't write this for the literary merit, anyway. Now, I sympathize with the plight of the cursed workers, but I do think that there are better ways to solve their problems than socialism. Another thing I can't stand is the blatant assumption that things could not get any better on their own. Being a hard-core free marketer, I strongly disagree: sure, in the short run, things may not be all that great, but eventually everyone would eventually get better off, with education as well as hard work.

Now, I've read the reaction that the public gave to this man's work, and I couldn't help but chuckle. It was quite ironic for them to mistake the trees for the forest, as the public cried out for better meat regulation. Ah, c'est la vie. Socialism would never get really popular, anyway.

Node your homework .

Upton Sinclair's The Jungle influenced millions of its reader's opinions towards the capitalistic system and the social injustices associated therein. Published in 1906, it embodied the progressive sentiments of the day, pointing out the huge disparity between the haves, portrayed as corrupt and merciless throughout the novel, and the have-nots who suffer at their hand and details the horrendous conditions faced by urban turn of the century immigrant families.

Along with other 'mudraking' works of the era like Lincoln Steffen's Shame of the Cities, Upton Sinclair's Jungle had profound implications for the upper class, especially the women, often inspired to lead reform efforts. It led them to question their beliefs in the world's laissez-faire economic attitude, and doubt that, if anything, Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' was doing more than giving millions of poor urban immigrants the finger. The underlying implication of the book becomes clear towards the end; workers are wage-slaves living deluded under the false sense of security money provides - Jurgis responds to the multitude of hardships he faces with: "I will work harder." Socialism is the only real answer to the problem of wealth disparity, and the only hope for many to actually live the American Dream they were promised.

The novel's socialist stance no doubt contributed to the rise and widespread acceptance of unions - the depiction of what can only be considered an 'American Nightmare' provided many with a clear understanding of what would continue to occur if organized resistance and collective bargaining would not be allowed to push for shorter workdays, safer workplaces, and a minimum wage.

The novel is just one of the era's many which called for alternate political or economic systems and described the particularly un-Horatio Alger-esque life that so many lived. What The Jungle is infamous for is its expose on the meat industry in America. The novel's detailed, graphic, and perhaps most disturbingly, true accounts of the conditions in the meatpacking industry horrified and disgusted all of its readers and single-handedly provoked the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act and Meat Inspection Act of 1906. At the turn of the century, the meat industry was run as a mass-production operation staffed by unskilled immigrants; whom, like the quality of the final product, the executives cared little for. Sinclair's examples of men losing digits, limbs, and their lives, not only on the job, but in the job horrified readers. The characters in the book who employed children and simply bleached and re-ground rotten meat largely paralleled their real-life counterparts, who shared the same negligence and greed in the operation of meatpacking plants in cities like Chicago and New York.

The massive public response to the book was not entirely expected by Sinclair. Even though on a literary level the book is sub-par at places, on a political and social level the book had massive repercussions. The last four chapters insisting on a socialist route was largely ignored over the buzz of controversy about the meatpacking expose - the distinguishing feature of what would've otherwise been a literarily unexceptional book, sure to be forgotten.

"The Jungle" is the twelfth episode of the third season of The Twilight Zone, and was first broadcast in November of 1961. It was written by Charles Beaumont, and starred John Dehner.

Alan Richards and his wife have returned from a trip to Africa, where he was working as an engineer designing a hydroelectic project. While there, a group of shamans placed a curse on the developers of the project, a curse that Richards' wife takes seriously, although he does not. The board of the company also scoffs at the idea, although Richards points out that they have talismans and superstitions of their own.

During the introductory scenes that set up the episode, it seemed that the episode was going into some fairly interesting territory: was Rod Serling going to give the television audiences of 1961 an introduction to post-colonialism and environmentalism?

After the basic conflict is introduced, it settles into more familiar terrain: Richards walks home at night, hearing the sound of drums and jungle animals, and getting more and more afraid. There is very little dialog past a certain point, just one man's suspenseful journey in a dark night, something most viewers (including myself) could probably sympathize with. Much like the previous episode, "Still Valley", this episode chooses not to explore some of the political and social issues implicit in its premise, but instead focuses on telling a standard, if well done, horror story. Of course, since the season has already presented such heavy topical episodes as "The Shelter" and "Deaths Head Revisited", a breather episode or two does make a nice break.

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