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Jungle (725 words)

Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle is the tale of a Lithuanian immigrant, Jurgis Rudkus,
and his family. Jurgis and his family move to the United States in the middle of
the Industrial Revolution, only to find themselves ill-equipped for the
transition in the workplace and in society in general. Jurgis faces countless
social injustices, and through a series of such interactions, the theme of the
book is revealed: the support of socialism over capitalism as an economic and
social structure. Jurgis learns soon after transplanting his family that he
alone cannot earn enough to support his entire family, in spite of the intensity
of his valiant efforts to work harder. Soon his wife and the rest of his family
are working as well, all attempting to chip in to cover family expenses.

However, such exposure proves itself to be too dangerous and detrimental to the
Rudkuses. Jurgis becomes hardened by his negative experiences as he realizes
that, in a capitalist society like the one he was living in, there is no
justice. Hard work is not justly rewarded, and often times corruption is
rewarded in its place. Through and through, he sees that capitalist life is not
fair. Soon he is injured on the job and is forced to stay home and out of work
while his mangled foot heals. Jurgis is sidelined from work for two months, and
upon his return he finds himself replaced by another worker. Desperate for a
job, he takes a dreaded position at the glue factory. Hi wife is pregnant, his
family is working themselves to the breaking point, and the bills are getting
the best of them. Jurgis turns to drinking. Things get worse. He learns that his
wife has been forced to have sex with her boss. Jurgis, in a rage, attacks the
man at the Packing house and is arrested for battery. He spends a month in jail,
at which time he meets Jack Duane, a character who introduces him to the
“easy” life: a life of crime. Within a month of the time Jurgis gets
out of jail, everyone has lost their jobs and the house they struggled so hard
to keep is lost. Soon Ona is having a child, and because of the lack of funds to
pay for proper care for her, both she and the child die in labor. His son
drowns, many family members have died and the remainder are scattered with no
semblance of the family they once were. Jurgis takes to the country to become a
tramp, but as winter approaches he knows he must return to the city – to
“the jungle” – once again. Jurgis becomes a beggar and a vagrant.

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After receiving $100 dollars from Freddie Jones, the son of rich Old Man Jones,
he goes into a bar to get change and gets into another altercation, this time
with the bartender, and is again arrested. Soon he turns to Jack Duane to enter
the life of crime he had foreshadowed. Isolated from any remainders of his
family, he begins to live the easy life of shortcuts and crooked paths. However,
another chance encounter with Connor, his wife’s boss and seducer, brings out
his true self again, the man who stands up for his moral convictions, even when
it harms him to do so. After beating the man again, he is arrested and jumps
bail. By pure luck he wanders into a socialist meeting while looking for food
and/or a place to sleep. There his life begins a change in earnest. He learns at
that meeting what the working class can do to make a difference. Soon after he
reunites with his daughter, Marjia, a drug-addicted prostitue struggling to
support the family’s remains. The story closes with a happy socialist ending:
Jurgis gets a job at a hotel run by socialists and seals his fate. He goes on to
become an avid socialist and he, the fighter, and Marjia, the victim, pick up
the pieces of their lives to make everything better. I feel that this book is a
ridiculously oversimplified look at socialism and a very sinister look at
capitalism. While I applaud Sinclair’s efforts to illustrate the injustices of
capitalism, socialism does not hold the simple solution to everything like it
seemingly did for Jurgis in The Jungle. In truth, corruption can be found in any
and every type of economic and social-political structure in existence ever
throughout history and in the future. A solution to this problem? I can’t answer
that one, but I


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