31 January 2015
The American Dream is an idea in which many skilled workers migrate from their homeland for the search of a better life and wage and has been going on since the foundation of the country. The book “The Jungle”, by Upton Sinclair, portrays the lives and the conditions in which many of these workers have to go under during the Gilded Age, early 1900’s. The Gilded
Age in paper has a nice ring to it but in reality has an abundant amount of major flaws. Problems of the Gilded Age included things such as corruption and working conditions.
To begin with, the Gilded Age had many problems such as monopolies, women’s rights, tariffs, living conditions, working conditions (Unions), pollution, and new immigrants. All of these problems are presented in the book that occur to the characters. Jurgis, the protagonist, is an immigrant from Lithuania is the perfect example how each worker was and treated. In the
Gilded Age the health and sometimes the hopes of the workers were destroyed by the working conditions they had and this was no exception in Packingtown, the setting of the book. Ona is
Jurgis’s wife and she is the representation of the struggle of the typical woman in that age.
Furthermore, one of the major things that occurred in the Gilded Age was corruption everywhere in business, politics, and in society. Regulations what's that? The workers in the
Gilded Age could try to complain about their conditions they worked but many times it just ended up in fruitless efforts and Sinclair shows this in his book as he writes “
All of these agencies of corruption were banded together, and leagued in blood brotherhood with the politician and the
police; more often than not they were one and the same person...
” Like Jurgis stated all the people
who could potentially help give them better conditions are all tied to in corruption so this makes this a one sided system. Jurgis lived in the system where there has to be a miserable low class so that the upper class in this case politicians could live a life of a princess, so the more miserable they were and less regulations the easier, cheaper it would be to get workers. In one of the chapters Jurgis is tricked in a political scam where they are payed to accompany someone to a voting booth by paying them like in his case 2 dollar but this was not the only way politicians got votes they also bribed with posh government jobs. Bribes were given out to bosses so that contractors and suppliers could stay in business by giving the boss kickbacks making a fortune from them. Just as Sinclair backs up in his book, “There were scores of such tricks ; and sometimes it was the owners who played them and made fortunes, sometimes it was the jockeys and trainers, sometimes it was outsiders, who bribed them…” The book mentions many cases of bribery and it was pretty much a daily thing and it could be for anything and thus creating such a broken system without regulations. If there were any regulations to begin with it would not of matter, bribes would terminate any inspectors.
Following corruption, the working conditions of many workers were not only sometimes hazardous but also extremely strict. For example the book mentions if a worker was late 1 minute late they would lose an hour of pay in if the worker was twenty minutes late they would be fired which would make them wait at doorways for hours for up to weeks just to get another job men, women, and children the same just to get miserable wage. In many cases the fact you were sick meant nothing or like in the case of Ona, she died after going to work after giving birth and the poor health. Ona’s death is similar to that of many workers many would go to work
regardless in fright of losing their job even if the cause of their illness was the actual work. Many times workers would get sick simply because it was unsanitary just like Jurgis's job.