Illusion of the American Dream
Many immigrants migrate to America everyday with the hopes to achieve their American dream. For most immigrants the American dream consist of finding a country where effort and morality transcend to success. In “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair, a family of hard working optimistic Lithuanians migrate to America with the belief that equality and opportunity dictates that all people should have the same opportunities open to them if they put out efforts. They arrive to the US expecting to find a land of opportunity, freedom, and equality, and acceptance. Instead they find a land where only crime, moral corruption and crookedness enables them to succeed. The hopes and dreams of these individuals are destroyed as they encounter a land of moral corruption, crime, exploitation and a life of depression and unhealthy daily labor that brings them physical and mental pain. Sinclair clearly shows that the American Dream is simply an illusion.
The title of the book “The Jungle” creates an atmosphere of predators and prey like survival of the fittest. The predators being the criminals and the prey being the Rudkus family. The title of the book symbolizes how the lower class represented by the Rudkus family is being exploited or attacked by the capitalist society and how the country is turned into a jungle .Sinclair uses similes and metaphors to demonstrate the comparison between animals of the jungle and the people . For example in chapter 15, when Jurgis finds out that Connor “the great beast” rapes Ona, Jurgis “eyes were wild and his hair flying, and he was breathing hoarsely like a wounded bull”. Jurgis "sprang" into a room to find Connor, "his prey," and “sunk his teeth into the man’s cheek, and when they tore him away he was dripping whit blood, and the little ribbons of skin where hanging in his mouth” (Sinclair 162). Such imagery is portrayed through out the novel. Exploitation is foreshowed at the beginning of the story when Jurgis and Ona celebrate their weeding and the guest refuse to leave money to pay for the weeding. Ona is concerned that they wont be able to pay for the expenses and that they will be in serious debt but Jurgis assures her that he will work harder and earn all the money back. “Leave it to me, leave it up to me. I will earn more money-I will work harder” (Sinclair 21). This quotation shows how in the beginning of the novel Jurgis is very optimistic, strong, determine, energetic and, devoted to his family and his new country, being unaware of how the system works. Even when the family tries to purchase their new home which is symbolize by what their American dream is, they get exploited by the real state agent. Grandmother Majauszkiene tells them “You are all alike all the rest, they trick you and eat you alive. They never sell the house without interest. Get your deed, and see”(Sinclair 73). The tone of this quote also expresses the jungle atmosphere when she mentions how they are been tricked and eaten alive. Another individual that serves as an opposing force to the Rudkus family is Phil Connor. He is Ona’s boss at the factory and represents the higher corrupt authority in Chicago. He also rapes and takes advantage of Ona by pushing her into prostitution and makes life harder for Jurgis and his family when he decides to put him in the blacklist, making it absurd for Jurgis to get a new job. He is clearly an example of someone who abuses his power over others for his own personal profit
It is an argument that its up to everyone to do whatever is in their power to be happy. By exploiting the Rudkus family the real estate agent was happy because his American dream is to sell and make as much profit as possible. But up to what extend is it fair to achieve one’s American Dream? It is not fair to exploit other individuals in order to achieve ones goals and dreams. These people are coming to America unknowingly of how the system works blind to the ways of capitalism....
Upton Sinclair. The Jungle New York: Bantam Classic edition, 1906
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