"The Jungle": A Critical Look at the Progressive Era

Essay by purplechick007High School, 11th grade November 2006

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If you think of a good story as one that has a happy ending where the prince rides away into the sunset with the princess at the end of the book then "The Jungle" is not the book for you. The Jungle follows the struggles of Jurgis Rudkis and his Lithuanian family when they come to Packingtown, Chicago in the early 1900s. Sinclair's purpose for The Jungle was to show how the urban workers got treated harshly by owners of meat-processing factories. His main reason was to encourage socialism writing this, Upton Sinclair caused many food laws to be passed. With his graphic portrayal of the life horrors of Jurgis his family and the terrible job he held, Sinclair hoped that this tale would force the public to mandate a change to get better rights for the impoverished people. However, the people interpreted it differently. It provides great detail of what happens in the meat packing warehouses.

He describes a man falling into a vat and then the managers refusing to stop the grinders.

The family comes to America with hopes to discover all the wonderful things they had heard of. What they found was a shocking reality of unfairness, cruelty, and suffering. The family's hopes quickly disappear after what they thought was the road paved with gold is in fact covered with the shards of broken dreams. The family members toil arduously to survive, but are ultimately crushed by the weight of corrupt and greedy America. It follows the family as they stumble deeper and deeper into the corrupt American web, as they purchase a house from a lying lawyer; get and lose jobs, health, and hope. They work all day and live in a horrible shack at night. Many characters die because of how bad the...