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Upton Sinclair’s “Living and Dying in Packingtown, Chicago” Essay

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Updated: Dec 4th, 2019


The article “living and dying in Packingtown, Chicago” is a representative story about life in a town that is much characterized by intense suffering of families and abuse of responsibility by the industries that are established there. This paper seeks to write a summary of the article.

The paper will look into the major highlighted instances of suffering and irresponsible acts of firms in the region. An attempt is made to relate the events in the article to everyday life as depicted in the book The American story volume 2 since 1865 authored by Divine and Breen.


The article begins with a representation of a family that is seemingly under social crisis. Jurgis, one of the members of the family is reported to be jobless. In this state of economic instability when he is searching for an employment opportunity, a child named Kristoforas dies.

The story, final death and the funeral arrangements over the child’s body is the first representation of the level of suffering that is experienced by families in the town due to poverty and the level of suffering that people have to endure due to lack of health care.

Kristoforas together with one of his brothers are identified to be lame, having suffered from physical injury that affected their limps. The little Kristoforas’s life directly express the level of suffering that children are forced to undergo due to poor health care. The little boy is for example identified with rickets and is besides very unhealthy.

Characterized with significant loss of weight, the boy’s health is so poor that at the age of three years, he is not able to walk and instead can only manage to crawl for movements. His low body weight is also alarming as at the age of three years, he is carrying the weight of a one year old child. His life also reveals the level of poverty in the family by the dress that he wears.

The environment around the house which is cold affects him and no one is paying attention. The boy’s life is however cut short, neither by his complications nor by the unhealthy environment in the house, but most likely due to consumption of a food substance made of meat that had been declared harmful for consumption.

No medical attention is available to save the boy’s life and people are also not concerned about him except his mother. Even after his death, there is no money to organize for a funeral and his mother is forced to beg.

The death of Kristoforas was basically due to the lack of health care that could treat his disease. This level of care was actually not available in the entire country forcing another person whose child suffered from the same problem to actually import medical personnel from Europe.

Treatment could still not be administered unless experimentations, which were done on other children, were carried out. The situation in the town thus expressed poor health care for children whose lives were seemingly not even protected from unsafe medical practices such as experimentation (Upton 73).

I find the representation as made in this article to be quite convincing. Without proper medical provision people would easily die as depicted in this article. The article also relates well with the book David and Breen. It is true that the US has been struggling to improve its health care system to make it accommodative of every person. This is why there have been continuous improvements of the medical facilities.


The write also expresses concerns over the economic situation in the town. The level of poverty that is experienced by individuals in the town is so bad that people are forced into jobs that they not only dislike, but ones that they fear and even compare to death. The fertilizer factory is for example one of such places.

Having no other employment option, Jurgis is forced to take an employment opportunity at the fertilizer plant. His move to secure a job is facilitated by the social responsibility that he has as a man to earn a living to his family, a duty that was then being solely undertaken by a woman, Ona. His presence in the plant offers a revelation of the working conditions in the town’s industries.

The raw materials that are being used are in the first place waste materials which are not clean. The working conditions are also not healthy as the operations processes of the factory are full of dust and solid particles. The smell in the fertilizer factory together with its suffocated environment is also a health hazard to individuals who work there without any protections such as masks. The working population also consists of children under the same risks. Working in this place was itself a risky business as Jurgis was to realize.

The experience that he got when he started to work at the place threatened his life and at the same time offered him humiliation. The dust filled atmosphere that he was welcomed to could not even allow him to see his fellow workers who were at the same location. Chemicals in the fertilizer industry also diffused into people’s bodies through their skins.

Jurgis was on his first day at work upset by the condition that made him sick. This was worsened by the humiliation that he got when he left the factory for home. The smell that he carried with him for example chased people out of the vehicle that he boarded.

The impact of his experience was also carried to the house where people could not even share a table with him. He personally took a long time to recover his normal life and even start taking his meals normally. His life was however deteriorated due to the work (Upton 75).

Poverty and insufficient job opportunities go hand in hand as depicted in this article. If there are no enough job opportunities then the likelihood of people suffering in poverty is quite high. As the US developed over time, it also passed through such kind of stage where job opportunities were not enough for the job seekers.

Scarcity of job opportunities forces people to take up whatever job opportunities comes their way. This kind of despair often creates good platforms upon which the labor force is abused by being underpaid among other things.

Irresponsible factories

The tough economic situation in the Jurgis family forced Elzbieta to also seek for a job in a sausage producing factory. Like the fertilizer factory, the working conditions were not friendly forcing workers to hardships. Her presence in the factory then exposes a level of unhealthy standards that were maintained by the factory.

The meat that was for example being used to produce the sausages was not necessarily clean. They were therefore subjected to processes that would make them appear to have been fresh and clean.

There were also a lot of malpractices with respect to quality breach in which substandard products were branded and sold as high grade. Raw materials that were being used in the factory were also substandard.

Reported cases of use of meat that had been marked to be unsafe for human consumption were also a feature of the factory. Meat products that had been rejected in foreign countries were for instance recycled and used in the factory. Storage facilities and operation processes were also reported to be unhealthy (Upton 79).

As noted above, scarcity of resources leads to constraints which result to few job opportunities. In order to maximize profits, firms engage different ways. The different means that are engaged in may be illegal of legal. As depicted in the book authored by David and Breed, business units often engage illegal practices and in the context of the US this often led to strikes among the industrial was.


The lifestyle that was realized in Packingtown was one of suffering due to poverty. The level of poverty and demand for money forced people to take any form of available job that could even be risky to their lives. The writer succeeds in making his presentation about the life in the town through his emotional touches among others. In his article, the author can be said to have been criticizing the wrongs in the town so as to enlist corrective measures.

Works Cited

Upton, Sinclair. Packingtown, Chicago from the Jungle. Prentice Hall: New York, n.d. Print.

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1. IvyPanda. "Upton Sinclair’s “Living and Dying in Packingtown, Chicago”." December 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/upton-sinclairs-living-and-dying-in-packingtown-chicago/.


IvyPanda. "Upton Sinclair’s “Living and Dying in Packingtown, Chicago”." December 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/upton-sinclairs-living-and-dying-in-packingtown-chicago/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Upton Sinclair’s “Living and Dying in Packingtown, Chicago”." December 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/upton-sinclairs-living-and-dying-in-packingtown-chicago/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Upton Sinclair’s “Living and Dying in Packingtown, Chicago”'. 4 December.

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