In Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, we are given the sights and experiences that are faced by Jurgis and his family when they migrate to America. They move out from their homeland in Lithuania to pursue the America Dream for a better life after hearing how a man made a good fortune in America. With the struggles that the family face from her homeland they venture out to find a steady source of work and live comfortably. The family needed to support themselves, especially with the loss of the farm from Onas’ father, and also because the available money they had was limited. Moving to Packingtown in Chicago, they had faced the opposite of what they have heard and saw from other people and advertisement signs. Homes advertised would be run down yet expensive, which the condition was unknown. Swindles for house purchases were not as described and the working environment had various hazards. These hazards ranged from poor sanitary conditions to overworking the workers and not paying them properly. Business owners would gain advantage over the workers because of their status and power that was held. The neighborhoods were dangerous and filled with immigrants who were struggling to get by and make a proper living. Capitalists would gain wealth, while the lower classes remained stagnant with very little opportunities to advance forward and build up on living conditions and pay. The care for the immigrants was not taken well into many concerns. Even those who spoke against the mistreatment they experienced from her boss lost their jobs or knew that if they were to bring up a case, they were to lose because of connections wealthy capitalists had with other people of different systems, relating to when Jurgis was jailed. Their areas were less developed and made from cheap materials. The living environment was crowded and at the mercy of environmental factors that did not ensure safety, even if one owned their own home. Trash would litter the area and even farm animals, such as chickens can be seen picking at whatever is left from rubbish filled streets.
The goals and aspirations of Jurgis and his family was to have a good living which encouraged them to go to America for the land of equality and opportunity. With the passing of Onas’ father, they family had lost all rights to the farm and must get by, even though the work at meat shops and sewing that they faced had very low tolerance for even being a few minutes late. The family decided to take the trip because of the story of an individual who had made grand wealth in America with the high pay. The family faced troubles in both their homeland and in America from con artists and thieves. The lower classes would steal from each other just as those with more wealth would take advantage of these people. Just for work, to pay a part of one’s own pay to keep a job is unfair. These dreams of better success was changed by the challenges they have faced. Poor working conditions and trying to save enough to build up was not an easy feat. The homes of the Jurgis have lived in varied bit by bit, from the boarding home that they had first stayed at to the run down and unfinished rental home. The first place they lived was in a border home, then to a false ideal home which was run down and poorly kept previous before the purchase though was listed as something of the opposite.
The ways that the family had tried to get by was by working harder to climb the ladder to better successes and gave attempts to keep supporting each other, even while living in corrupt areas where crime rates were high. Continuing to go to work to earn enough to live off of was growing less and less as an option, especially when Jurgis had sprained his ankle and received no pay for the time he was off duty, which he was harmed at work because of the conditions.
The factors that caused these goals to change varied. Starting off with the wedding from the wedding feast, the couple must earn money quickly to be able to support themselves. The husband went off to work to earn income. During this event, many locals came in to partake but most did not truly celebrate with the couple. The providers also rang up larger costs that were not even consumed by the feast people. The new goal that came to mind after witnessing the cruelties of their new home was to call attention to the sells of rotten meat to the public, and to show the harsh life that immigrants faced in the bustled shops. The neighborhoods were poor and the sanitary conditions were awful. The false dream of opportunity and equality for all was portrayed, however the family did not experience the true American dream. The American Dream is battled ridden with muffled meanings of American morals and values. The very meaning of survival is not the righteous work hard and be paid for the work you have done, the scales seem to differ to the exact opposite, which would be to be as sneaky and sly as one can to be able to make it in such a capitalistic world. There were, however, chances of luck that gave aid to the wish of keeping the family away from being homeless and starving. From the book a young musician was able to bring the whole family to places where he performed, and there was also an attraction between him and Marija. Jurgis was determined, and especially in the winter season where things became more difficult as the work environment began to grow more dangerous. Many workers have passed away from illness and faced the harsh cold from winter. Jurgis explained how his shifts were dark and poorly lit, and while sacrificing his life going back to work, he knew that he had to continue while the rental home was on the line and losing his pay or being fired could result from being late.
Finally, Sinclairs final thought about life in Packingtown was how businesses should not be owned by those with too much power, because this leads to corrupt practices in the institutions. Sinclair believed that the worker should have the ability to own such businesses. They would be deemed more fair and would support a better environment for the employees which would ensure cleaner practices. Sinclair believed that when people convert into socialism, they too will own chicago and not be at the mercy of corrupt capitalists living off from their misery and this accurately portrays the change that was to improve with the Gilded Age and Progression era of human advancement. These eras were one of American busiest with developments, however corruption raised with more profits to be made and a greater demand that called to service. The fairness of the Gilded and Progressive era was challenged with advancements with the economy. Although this lead to a bigger marketplace and created more jobs. This was very limited and ruled over by a few capitalists who made their own rules and consequences for the workers. They could get away quite easily with crimes against their own employees if they had the right connection or were feared. The justice system could be swayed with money and have the charges dropped.
In conclusion, I do believe that Sinclair achieved his goal when he had published The Jungle. Though he advocated for the fix of mistreatment, this part of thought did not gain enough recognition from Sinclair personally, the greatest concern rotated around the food condition. From Sinclairs following quote. “I aimed at the Public’s Heart, and By Accident I hit it in the Stomach…” (Upton Sinclair.“The Jungle”.Penguin,1906.)
Sinclair was putting emphasis into the living conditions and struggles that were being faced by the working immigrants of lower classes. Sinclair, however, gained more recognition from the ill practices that were containmneting the food quality and then being sold to the public for consumption. His published work was a great success, and with this success, the public was now well informed of what was happening in meat shops, along with the mistreatment of the employees making more people aware. Referencing to the quote, Enclair had a lasting effect on the stomach of the American people. Acts had been put into place to stop the malpractices that were occuring. The Pure Food and Drug Act was passed and the Meat Inspection Act, which had procedures put into place to ensure the meat and food source was fit for consumption. Sinclairs way to share his experience was indeed very effective. He showed and told the life that was faced from being a lower class worker who lost most of his family due to overworking or mistreatment, which he struggled to get back up and find the motivation to keep striding for a path to a brighter future. He explained the conditions that were faced and the harsh treatments received from business owners. Sinclair was able to advance social aspects from his efforts and sharing his voice. He reached out to the public to shine light on the dark side of capitalism and the threats it comes with.
- Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. New York: Penguin Books, 1985.