The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, Chapter 14: What This Section Reveals About Life in the USA in the Early 1900s
The chapter from The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair shows a life that is full of misery and lacking in comfort or beauty for the most part. The characters are torn up, just the way the meat is chopped up in the packing plants. The companies they work for have no regard for the workers or the consumer. There seems to be no effective regulation that would prevent the sort of practices the packing plant follows.
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The food that is available to the family is probably no better than what they help to process, so their nutrition is doubtful. The characters seem to be immigrants and lack the skills or the education to do jobs that are more desirable at the time of the narrative. In the meantime, the fact that they cannot control the size of their family to match their small income, add to their suffering. The man, Jurgas, shows no understanding of the facts of life and is thus not very helpful to his wife.
Additionally, there are constant temptations to drink from every bar on every street. This makes Jurgas even less useful to the family. The family is tied into this work because of the need to pay rent and buy heating coal. It is a life of desperation, much of which seems to be unnecessary.
What Does Image on Page 237 of Good Housekeeping 1926 Reveal About Gender Roles?
The image on page 237 of Good Housekeeping, promoting a large kitchen cupboard, reveals a great deal about expectations of women in the 1920s. In 1926, women were just six years away from having gotten the vote in 1920. This is perhaps reflected in the statement about the ‘regard’ for women. This seems to be an attempt to tie the innovative and more convenient design of the cabinet to the recent increase in the status of women. The underlying role of women is, however, apparently still in the kitchen. The vote, this advertisement implies, does not excuse women from taking care of the house. However, the role of the housewife is elevated.
Housewives are meant to be efficient and competent, and interested in doing the housework in the most effective way possible. This is a step up from the servant of the household to the scientific manager of the household. The ad also makes a visual reference to the sort of chapels that many homes had in centuries past. The way that that cabinet is displayed looks like a shrine, and the design surrounding the text looks like church doors. This suggests that women were the priestesses of housekeeping, as well.
Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange’s Photographs of the Depression: What Are the Strengths and Weaknesses of Photographs as Historical Evidence?
The photographs of Evans and Lange demonstrate both the strength and the failings of photography as tools for studying history. They capture a level of detail that is very difficult for any other medium to reveal. However, they are a form of art. Thus, like any other medium, they can reflect the goals and biases of the artist. While this means that they cannot be considered as totally objective, they are no less objective than any other piece of artwork.
It is in comparing many different pieces of art, and studying other sources of information at the same time, that any artwork reveals its most useful information. For example, although the photographs of the impoverished mother are different, all reveal the very simple surroundings of that woman and her children. She is in a makeshift tent, the kids are dirty, and she is wearing a dirty bathrobe for her major garment.
Although the other pictures show her in context, the picture and the cropping Lange chose to draw a parallel between the Migrant Mother and the Madonna, a mother, and child that is timeless. Despite this artistic shaping of the image, the woman is still dirty, sunburned, and dressed inappropriately for a photograph, with a dirty baby. The meaning of the photo – that she is poor in a way that few could visualize – is still valid. However, as with all art, and indeed with all historical materials, close study and examination in-context help to get the most from an artifact.