The Irony of The Jungle
Between 1870 and 1900 Chicago grew from a population of 299,000 to almost 1.7 million, the fastest-growing city ever at the time. This surge in population was largely attributed to immigrants coming from European countries seeking a chance for employment and new freedoms associated with moving to the United States at the time. 1905, in particular, was a historic year when a surge of over 1 million immigrants came to the city. During this time, author Upton Sinclair was working undercover, investigating working conditions in the city’s meatpacking district. Sinclair’s research was integrated into his novel The Jungle, a tragic story about a group of immigrants from Lithuania led by Jurgis, the main character that is set on providing for his family while chasing the American dream. Sinclair narrates the struggles of Jurgis and his family’s encounters as they battle exploitation and the virtual wage slavery that occurs as a result of unregulated capitalist greed. Despite Sinclair’s efforts to expose the flaws he saw in the capitalist system and bring about changes by way of Socialist measures, The Jungle revolted the public with its descriptions of poorly processed meat, concerning them more with their own health than the wellbeing of the workers themselves. Sinclair titled his book to showcase the struggles and dangers the working class faced, but his intentions were lost on the public who reacted to the less voluminous details about rancid meat. However, by looking closely at the novel, we can see that The Jungle is in fact aptly titled because the public’s initial reaction to the very elements that Sinclair exposes ironically backup his claims. The novel begins appropriately with an elaborate chapter on the wedding of Jurgis and his bride Ona. Jurgis is known for his strength, a source of pride he carries with him to assure him of his goals when coming to America. Sinclair uses metaphors to describe his...
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