The Jungle: Book Review

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The main theme of The Jungle is the evil of capitalism. Every event, especially in the first twenty-seven chapters of the book, is chosen deliberately to portray a particular failure of capitalism in Sinclair’s view, inhuman and violent. The slow total destruction of Jurgis’s immigrant family at the hands of a cruel and unfair economic and social system shows the effect of capitalism on the working class as a whole. As the immigrants, who initially possess an idealistic faith in the American Dream of hard work leading to material success, are slowly used up and destroyed, the novel illustrates that capitalism is to blame for their troubles and emphasizes that the characters’ individual stories are the stories of millions of people. Sinclair suggests not to explore the psychology of capitalism; instead, he simply presents a long litany of the ugly effects of capitalism on the world.

In Sinclair’s view, socialism is the cure for all of the problems that capitalism creates. When Jurgis discovers socialist politics in Chapter 28, it becomes clear that the novel’s attack on capitalism is meant to persuade the reader of the interest of the socialist alternative. When socialism is introduced, it is shown to be as good as capitalism is evil; whereas capitalism destroys the many for the benefit of the few, socialism works for the benefit of everyone. It is even shown that a socialist state could fulfill Christian morality. Every aspect of the novel’s plot and conflict is designed to discredit the capitalist political system and illustrate the ability of a socialist political system to restore humanity to the mistreated, broken, and abused working class.
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