Good Book Review About The Jungle - Review
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The Jungle was a book written by Upton Sinclair at the beginning of the last century. The story describes the life of an immigrant couple, Jurgis Rudkus and Ona Lukoszaite. They are both Lithuanians and have left their home in quest of a better life in America. Having arrived in Chicago, they throw a wedding feast for family and friends residing in the Packingtown area. While, propriety requires guests to chip in for such feasts, poverty results in everyone partaking the feast without chipping in any money. Having come from a community of farmers, Jurgis manages to get a job in the meatpacking industry in Chicago. At about the same time, Ona’s relatives who have immigrated and they continue residing together.
However, life in Packington is not easy and the local residents often indulge in despicable and immoral practices, especially against new immigrants. The family’s attempt to buy a house is thwarted when they realize that the seller of the place has swindled them by not disclosing vital facts about the house. This results in entire family taking up jobs, including Marija. The horrible working condition takes a toll on each of them and even ends up killing Jurgis’ father. Further, to make matters worse, Marija loses her job and Ona becomes pregnant, thus resulting in a loss of income from two fronts. She delivers a baby boy, but is forced to return to work after only seven days. In the meantime, Jurgis injures his ankle due to the poor working conditions and is rendered out of work for almost three months. During this period his employer does not pay him anything and he loses his existing job forcing him to take up a job in the fertilizer plant.
Meanwhile, Ona gets pregnant a second time. At this time, her employer Phil Connor tries to get Ona to sleep with him. On hearing this, Jurgis attacks Connor and is sentenced to a one month prison sentence that is unfair and excessive. On being released, he realizes that his family has left their old quarters. When he finds them, he sees Ona screaming due to labor pains and pregnancy related complications kill both the mother and the child. Although, Jurgis is broken due to this incident and starts drinking alcohol, he gets his act together and gets a job at a steel mill due to an old wealthy woman who helps the family through these trying times. As winter approaches, Jurgis makes a move to Chicago again. However, Jurgis goes twice to prison again after getting into a brawl with a bartender and later when he sees Phil Connor and attacks him. Having lost touch with his family, an acquaintance points Jurgis to the whereabouts of Marija who has taken to prostitution to support the family and the children. After undergoing such extreme tribulations, Jurgis reaches the conclusion that socialism as an economic system is better than capitalism. He embraces the ideals of socialism with the hope that the system should deliver a better sense of equality for the worker class.
The overall tone of the book is extremely somber and depressing. It was really quite hard for me to imagine that such horrible conditions existed in the country about a century ago. The author has successfully highlighted the plight of the immigrant workers of those times due to the dual atrocities of the capitalists and the unfair social system, both of which lead to a problematic sociological scenario that bred vice and corruption. The worst part of the story was that the existing immigrants who were already in the US and had established themselves here were responsible for the plight of the new immigrants. These older immigrants cheated the new immigrants and tried to earn money from their misfortune. This fact, although, a century old now, is rather surprising and, is a revelation to most of us about the historical conditions of workers in a country that prides itself on civil liberties, equality and freedom. I think that this idea of a hierarchy amongst immigrants is, in itself, ridiculous. A careful observation of our present day social system also reveals a somewhat similar story, in at least some communities. Barring exceptions, life for first generation immigrants is much harder than those of the subsequent generations. The first generation immigrants battle the dual problems of a culture shock and limited financial resources, as well as aiming to fulfill their dream of having a good life in the US. Therefore, Sinclair brings home the point quite effectively when he highlights such sociological issues, since they carry a high degree of relevance even in the present times. While the present day America may have gotten a little better on working conditions for workers, we still see bits and pieces of the sociological structures intact from about a century ago.
I think there was a good reason for selecting this book as a reading material for this course. While most readers would identify this book as an illustrative reason that highlights the benefits of socialism over capitalism, with the protagonist endorsing this view as well, the book also highlights the clear sociological aspects of the early 1900s in industrialized America. From the very beginning of the book, one sees the manner in which the family is socially discriminated upon, cheated and treated in an unfair manner. One can imagine that the urban American life of a worker in those times might have been similar to the instances depicted by Sinclair. The horrible working conditions, incidences of immigrant women turning to prostitution to support families and the rampant cheating perpetrated by existing immigrants on new ones were influential factors in shaping the sociological scenarios of those times. Therefore, for the present day reader, the book depicts the sociological and social scenarios of those times and enables us to compare the same to the present day system.
In conclusion, the book was an excellent source for a reader to understand the social as well as the sociological aspects of America in the 1900s and Sinclair’s work only reveals more and more about these aspects as the plot unveils.
Sinclair, U. (2013). The Jungle. J. Manis (Ed). Hazleton, PA: Penn State University Electronic Publishing. Retrieved from www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/u-sinclair/TheJungle.pdf
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