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‘The Jungle’ by Upton Sinclair Thesis

Upon Sinclair’s book The Jungle is as a powerful piece of literature. It dwells on the lives of Northern Europe immigrants who moved to Chicago in search of greener pastures. Specifically, the novel is based on daily life experiences by Jurgus Rudkus and his family. The author paints a dark picture of exploitation, poverty, and corruption on the lives of these immigrants in Chicago.

Thus, this reflective treatise attempts to explicitly analyze the reasons why Jurgis and his family initially had optimism of better position in Chicago meat packing district. Besides, the paper attempts to address efforts taken by Jurgis and his family to achieve economic stability in Chicago. In addition, the treatise discusses factors which directly contributed to the destruction of the family’s economic gains.

In chapter one, Jurgis and his family are living in poverty and are prisoners of economic hardship. As expected, weeding ceremonies are meant to bring joy and happiness to a family. However, cost of a weeding is the key determinant of its success. Most young men are described as stingy including Jurgis.

They are surrounded by anguish, sorrow, emotional overwrought and fearful mental strain as a result of poverty1. The nights are described as their only source of pleasure since the following day is marked by hard labor. The struggle is impractical to maintain humanity amidst dehumanization.

From the stories of friends who had made it in Chicago, Jurgis’ optimism rejuvenates. He epitomizes internal strength and an indomitable spirit to work hard and liberate his family economically. Jurgis’ physical strength and peasant mind drives him to move to Chicago with the hope of better opportunities for him and his family2.

Fortunately, once in America, Jurgis gets employment in the meatpacking without much struggle and he is able to fend for the family comfortably. Therefore, Jurgis was overjoyed by the prospects of getting a reliable job and he is convinced of making a descent living. In fact, they were able buy a small and rickety house with their little earnings. The optimism was as a result of enthusiasm and strong possibility of living the American dream.

Notwithstanding the poverty back in Northern Europe, Jurgus and his family did several things overcome absolute penury and liberate themselves economically. To begin with, they migrated from Northern Europe to escape poverty and move to America following stories of success from a fellow villager called Jokubus.

The family makes a journey of faith in search of greener pasture instead of staying and acceptinh poverty as a fate in Europe. Once in America, Jurgis makes contact with the established and ‘rich’ Jokubus and he is directed to the local stock pack house in Chicago2. Jurgis finds a stable job in the meat house within hours. Jurgis is overjoyed and inspired by the success of his fellow village mate Jokubus, who is a very successful ‘delicatessen’ owner.

In spite of the fact that Jurgis got a job within moments due to his strong physique, other members of the family endeavor to graciously accept job positions offered indiscriminately notwithstanding the unfriendly and inhuman stipulations surrounding work conditions3. At the end of the day, each member of the family would earn some income. Due to constant and reliable flow of little income, the family makes a bold step to locate an affordable house and purchase the same.

Owning a house is a major stride towards achieving the American dream that was deep in the heart of Jargis. Each member of this family endeavored to achieve the dream of owning a house by pulling resources together to purchase one.

Notwithstanding the tricks played by fraudsters during the process of purchasing the house, members of this family graciously continue to pay the exorbitant rates in form of insurance fees3. Besides the high insurance fees, the family has to squeeze their budget further to accommodate high monthly mortgage charges until the house fully becomes theirs.

To maintain income flow, Sinclair describes the inhuman and horrendous conditions of each member of the family have to endure. “From the nature of disease affecting a laborer, it was easy for Jurgis to tell the occupation and section of employment of the victim.”3 Despite this, Jurgis continues to work under these pathetic conditions in order to fend for the family and keep the American dream in progress. As a matter of fact, Jurgis even loses his father to an illness associated with his place of work at the cellar as described in chapter 143.

After losing his job position to a younger and stronger man, Jurgis is disillusioned to the lowest ranked fertilizing plant job with even more worse working conditions. The same happens to other family members who regardless of the unbearable conditions, continue to provide labor in the market. In summary, the family believed in provision of labor through employment as means for economic liberation. In spite of earning peanuts as income, they managed to own a house and endure the inhuman work conditions.

Factors which were responsible for destruction of the hard won economic gains in the Jurgis family are fraud, selfishness, underemployment, diseases, and paltry payment against excessive work. The family managed to buy a house and only realized later that the whole process of changing ownership was a fraud. The family was tricked by the selfish sellers to buy an old house repainted as new. Besides, the family had to cope up with unrealistic insurance charges because the house was located over a land fill.

In addition, the mortgage charges per month were not directly proportional to the quality and estate value of their small and rickety house4. They are described as exorbitant and carry along erroneous rates with them. The family merely struggles to offset these bills besides buying second hand goods at unreasonable price. Reportedly, prices of food stuff are beyond their means and they are forced to stretch this small budget further and neglect most of their basic needs.

Notwithstanding the fact that members of this family had unreliable jobs, a part from Jurgis, they had to squeeze the budget further to accommodate treatment which was not catered for by their employers though these illnesses were associated with place of work. Diseases played a big role towards the dwindling rates of the family’s income. After Ona gave birth to a son; named after the late Jurgis’ father, she is forced to resume work only a week after delivery4.

The winter weather becomes unbearable to her and she fades away from productive life. Moreover, Jurgis lost his father to illness. This translated to loss of income from his father’s contribution to the family. Besides, Ona’s income contribution also ‘faded off’ when she lost her ability to engage in productive labor and she is forced to engage in prostitution.

As described in chapter 10, Sinclair states that, “Here was a population, low-class and mostly foreign, hanging always on the verge of starvation, and dependent for its opportunities of life upon the whim of men every bit as brutal and unscrupulous as the old-time slave drivers”5. Unfortunately, Jurgis’ income was also cut during the three month period out of labor market as a result of illness and depression.

Regardless of having tried to hide pain originating from the fracture on his leg, the doctor recommended him to stay out of productive employment for three months to recover. These three months formed the worst part of financial meltdown in the family as Jurgis lacked income for the same period.

Upon recovery, he is demoted to a lower income earning job in the fertilizing plant since his position had been taken by a man described as younger and stronger. Unfortunately, Jargis failed ‘to pull himself back’ to productive employment and he was wasted away by depression, prison life, and alcoholism. Out of ignorance, the family completely lost its control of financial arms since none belonged to the workers’ union.


Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. Chicago and Princeton: New Jersey, 1906.


1 Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, (Chicago and Princeton: New Jersey, 1906), chapter 1-20.

2 Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, (Chicago and Princeton: New Jersey, 1906), chapter 1-20.

3 Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, (Chicago and Princeton: New Jersey, 1906), chapter 1-20.

4 Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, (Chicago and Princeton: New Jersey, 1906), chapter 1-20.

5 Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, (Chicago and Princeton: New Jersey, 1906), chapter 1-20.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "‘The Jungle’ by Upton Sinclair." June 30, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-jungle-by-upton-sinclair/.


IvyPanda. (2019) '‘The Jungle’ by Upton Sinclair'. 30 June.

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