Living the American Dream in Packingtown, Chicago

Topics: Political corruption, Social class, Working class Pages: 2 (680 words) Published: February 22, 2005
Some novels and plays portray the consequences that occur when individuals pursue their own personal good at the expense of the common good of the group or society. Choose a novel or play, and write a well-organized essay that explains how the interests of a character or group of characters conflict with the common good and produce dire consequences for another group or society. Avoid plot summary.

Conflicting Interests

Many immigrants are moving to the United States in the early 1900's with the hopes of living the "American Dream." However, that glittering American lifestyle is merely a distant ideal for the immigrants living in Packingtown, the Lithuanian meatpacking district of Chicago. Upton Sinclair's The Jungle portrays life through the eyes of a poor workingman struggling to survive in this cruel environment, where the desire for profit among the capitalist meatpacking bosses and the criminals makes the lives of the working class a nearly unendurable struggle for survival.

To begin, life among the working class sways with the corruption among the meatpacking bosses, or packers, and the criminals. Residents of Packingtown must have money to pay the inflated prices of food and shelter in order to survive the freezing winters of Chicago. Jurgis, the protagonist of the novel, being a big, strong, young man, has no trouble acquiring a job in the beginning of the novel. He is prime material for the packers of the industry. Jurgis can keep up with the outrageously strenuous pace set by the packers in order to get as much profit as possible out of their workers. However, Jurgis's father, Dede Antanas, being an old, frail man, struggles to find work in order to support the large family, but his share of income is needed nonetheless. One of the packers sees the old man's need for work and makes him an offer. If Antanas will pay one third of his wages to this packer, then he has found a job. This sort of exploitation runs rampant throughout the...
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