The Jungle By Upton Sinclair

This essay The Jungle By Upton Sinclair has a total of 1741 words and 9 pages.

The Jungle By Upton Sinclair

There are many characters in The Jungle. These characters vary

widely in their professions, social status, and economic status. The

main character in the novel is a Lithuanian named Jurgis Rudkus. His

wife is Ona Lukoszaite, also a Lithuanian. Their son is named

Antanas. Mike Scully is a powerful political leader in Packingtown.

Phil Connor is a foreman in Packingtown, “politically connected”

(through Scully), and a man who causes much trouble for Jurgis. Jack

Duane is an experienced and educated criminal who is also

“politically connected”. A man called Ostrinski is a half-blind

tailor who teaches Jurgis about Socialism. There are also the

members of Ona’s family, each of whom play minor roles in the story.

The story opens with the feast at Jurgis and Ona’s wedding in

America, but soon flashes back to the time before they left

Lithuania. Jurgis met Ona at a horse fair, and fell in love with

her. Unfortunately, they were too poor to have a wedding, since

Ona’s father just died. In the hopes of finding freedom and fortune,

they left for America, bringing many members of Ona’s family with


After arriving in America, they are taken to Packingtown to find

work. Packingtown is a section of Chicago where the meat packing

industry is centralized. They take a tour of the plant, and see the

unbelievable efficiency and speed at which hogs and cattle are

butchered, cooked, packed, and shipped. In Packingtown, no part of

the animal is wasted. The tour guide specifically says “They use

everything about the hog except the squeal,” (The Jungle, page 38).

Jurgis’s brawny build quickly gets him a job on the cattle killing

beds. The other members of the family soon find jobs, except for the

children. They are put into school. At first, Jurgis is happy with

his job and America, but he soon learns that America is plagued by

corruption, dishonesty, and bribery. He is forced to work at high

speeds for long hours with low pay, and so is the rest of the family.

He is cheated out of his money several times. The children must

leave school and go to work to help the family survive. This means

they will never receive the education they need to rise above this.

Ona is not permitted to take a holiday, even for her own wedding.

After the birth of her first son, Antanas, Ona soon becomes pregnant

again. She becomes very upset, but will not tell Jurgis why. After

she fails to come home one night, Jurgis confronts her. She breaks

into tears and tells Jurgis that a foreman named Connor has forced a

sexual relationship on her. Jurgis curses her and runs off to find


After beating Connor to a pulp, Jurgis is sent to jail for thirty

days. The judge refuses to listen to Jurgis’s story seriously. When

Jurgis is released, he finds that his family has moved to an even

poorer neighborhood, and Ona is in labor at that very moment.

Neither the baby, nor Ona, who went into labor two months early,

survive. Jurgis pulls himself together for the sake of Antanas and

gets a job. When Antanas drowns in the mud-filled street, Jurgis

gives up on Packingtown and his family. He hops aboard a passing

train, and leaves Chicago.

Jurgis enjoys a “ hobo ” life, wandering across the country. When

winter comes, he is forced to return to Chicago. He gets into a

fight in a bar and is sent to jail. In jail, he meets Jack Duane, an

experienced criminal. After being freed from jail, Jurgis and Duane

team up in a luxurious, but risky life of crime. Jurgis learns about

the connections between criminals, police, politics, and big

business. He becomes a member of this complex network and moves into

politics. He runs into Connor again, and beats him to a pulp a

second time. Connor’s political connections cause Jurgis to lose all

his acquired profit. Jurgis is back to wandering the streets.

To keep warm, Jurgis walks into a Socialist meeting. After the

meeting, he is introduced to a man named Ostrinski, who teaches

Jurgis about Socialism. Jurgis agrees completely with the political

party’s ideals, and becomes an active member. As the story ends, the

results of an election are being received. The novel concludes on a

positive note, showing that the Socialist party made significant

progress all across the country.

The Jungle is a novel that casts an evil light on America, business,

and politics. It promotes the concept of Socialism, emphasizes

corruption in our society, and makes wage-earners look like slaves.


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Related Topics

Meat packing industry, The Jungle, Jurgis, Upton Sinclair, Hobo

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