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Upton Sinclair “The Jungle” Essay

Upton Sinclair was a powerhouse of a writer, churning out 90 novels, 30 plays and countless articles, stories and pamphlets during his long life. In 1906, he gained fame and became a rich man after the publication of the muckraking The Jungle, a novel about the horrors of the Chicago meatpacking industry. The book helped convince Congress to pass the first Pure Food and Drug Act later that year. (Sinclair 1906) Nowadays people live in the world of economics and many people are thriving whereas many others are trying to dig through difficulties.

Such struggle for survival was constant throughout the history of all societies. Sinclair’s novel “The Jungle” is one of the examples of such struggle penetrating into the conflicts of socialism, capitalism, natural selection and American dream. The novel involves readers into a journey of recent Lithuanian immigrants to America. It is seen that this journey opens anew world full of unexpected and awful events. (Sinclair 1906)

Immigrants have to come to American “where in the early twentieth century it was said that any man willing to work an honest day would make a living and could support his family”. (Sinclair 1906) Sinclair telling his story stimulates reader to start symbolic war against capitalism. It is apparent that Sinclair really disguises the very idea of capitalism presenting his idea throughout the novel – from cover to cover. Capitalism in the novel is personified in the Jurgis’ desire to work, to earn more money as well as in the corruption of “the man” at the highest levels of society, etc.

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(Sinclair 1906) It is obvious that the symbols of capitalism and socialism are seen from the very start of the novel as they are constantly interrelated with the novel progression. Firstly, the author depicts the identity of Lithuanians considering they have the same values such as getting drunk and dancing. Sinclair makes to feel sympathy for those people as they try to preserve and follow traditions which they have brought with them from their native land. For example, everybody had his feeling of everything and strangers were always welcomed and warmly treated.

In such a way the author introduces the concept of socialism meaning that everybody is equal in society. Actually the author tries to present socialism as the resolution to hi novel. Sinclair illustrates plight of the workers in Packingtown as the unfairness of capitalism. People were persuaded 5o join socialistic movement due to promised improvements in working conditions. When the main heroes – Jurgis and Ona – took a good luck for the first time, Jurgis said: “Tomorrow, I will go there and get a Job, and then we can have a place of our own”.

(Sinclair 1906) Jurgis is the representative of capitalism: he is longing to work in the plant considering it is the only way to make decent living and his poverty is the main driving force. However, it bore no fruits. The next two ideas involved into novel are concepts of social Darwinism or natural selection and American dream. Upton Sinclair introduced the idea of natural selection into his novel illustrating that only the best suited were able to survive in that environment and weak had to die off. The example is the prevalence of corruption in the town.

American Dream is simply ridiculed throughout the story. Sinclair provided the main hero with a strong character having good morals and willing to work hard for family survival. Actually American Dream is embodied in Jurgis – “I will work harder”. (Sinclair 1906) It is a matter of fact that capitalism is strongly criticized by Upton Sinclair throughout the novel. The author made an attempt to show the misery of capitalism leading immigrants through awful working conditions, unfair social attitude and treatment, impossibility to adapt to new world.

It is apparent that Upton tried to open a door to new way of living – so-called socialism. The impact of the Sinclair’s novel on the public is strong and it is possible to suggest the novel’s function is to serve as the propaganda against capitalism. Upton Sinclair wanted people to have equal job opportunities and better living conditions. He understood the difficulties of poor people and thus he always criticized unfairness in society.


Sinclair, Upton (1906) The Jungle. New York: Doubleday, Page.

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