The Jungle By Upton Sinclair

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Pages: 9

The Jungle

America’s current society and working class take for granted some of the regularities and laws put into place to provide and safe and non-hostile work environment. Throughout reading the novel The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, you get to picture a possible real life experience of the hardships and road blocks of an immigrant family attempting to achieve the American dream. Things such as poor working conditions, the availability of jobs, overcoming sickness, and finding shelter to provide for a family are just some examples of why living in Chicago in the early 1900’s was difficult. In addition, readers get to see how little freedom the lower and working class have when it comes to supporting themselves or others as well as the lack of protection the government provides to its people. The life of a modern day American in the early 1900’s certainly had many more disadvantages rather than advantages. It was difficult to find a job that paid well, provided protection for the worker, provided a sanitary working condition, and one that could give a person fair hours. In fact, very few of these jobs exist. In the book The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, he shares a story about a family of immigrants who migrated from Lithuania in pursuit of a better life and great opportunities that could come with it. Many of these immigrant families came to America with very little money hoping to get a good job and establish a living in the United States one way or another. This is true in this situation as they spent most of their money to get to America and just got the first job they could find. Not many options were provided to these unskilled workers and their freedom was cut short because they could only get the worse possible jobs that paid at a very poor rate. The meat packing industry was booming at the time in the early 1900’s with the industrialization of factories and the idea of working with meat might have sounded not so bad until you were actually involved in the process. Jurgin, the main character and husband/father of the house, found a job in Packingtown, Chicago at a meat producing industry Durham’s, where he would sweep dead cattle through trap doors for about a dollar and a half per day. At the time, this was a decent earning, but still very low in the sense that he had to pay for an entire family to survive. There were not many regulations regarding sanitation or inspections yet in this industry however. For example, in the book he discusses about the meat government inspector and says, “and while he was talking with you you could hardly be so ungrateful as to notice that a dozen carcasses were passing him untouched” (Sinclair pg. 31). This shows how little the government cared at the time about what was actually going into the food the consumers purchased and ate. In addition, these places were not only providing food for a couple of people but rather for millions (Sinclair pg. 34).
Unions were one of the things that were of curiosity and want during this time for this industry. In an article about the meat packing industry, Wilson Warren writes, “From the late-nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century, meatpacking workers in Chicago and East St. Louis pursued labor union affiliation as a means to improve their workplace and community lives. In fact, meatpacking experienced the most strikes of any industry in the United States between 1881 and 1905 (Warren). Workers would sometimes also go on strikes in an effort to try and earn better working conditions and better hours but were not successful as other people would be waiting to snatch the jobs right from under them.
Times were tough for low class workers and these people would constantly try and find ways to take advantage of one another. In The Jungle, an agent tries to persuade the family into “buying” a house but in reality, they would be renting it and making monthly payments for nearly nine years before actually owning it, not to mention they