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Poverty is a wide spread problem that is present everywhere in the world. The effect of it is quite the same everywhere. However, even though some countries have the resources to eliminate poverty, most do not choose to do so. For example, the U.S. ignores poverty at home, while spends 50 billion dollars to fight the war in Iraq as given in War Resistance League website (http://www.warresisters.org/piechart.htm). The question of poverty was discussed in books by U. Sinclair, R. Cohen and J. Kozol, who have done careful research to show their audiences the true reality of poverty.
Throughout history people are struggling with poverty, but not a lot was done to solve the problem. During the Industrial Revolution immigrants struggled to survive more than native borne Americans. Upton Sinclair is a writer of one of the books about the revolution where he carefully discusses almost every aspect of poverty and struggle to survive. In “The Jungle”, the book about a family that emigrated from Lithuania to U.S., he gives an intriguing visual of the situation during that time period. Lithuania wasn’t doing great during that time period since their constant wars with Russia, thus coming to U.S. and starting a new life seemed to be more reasonable. “The new hands were there by thousands. All day long the gates of the packing houses were besieged by starving and penniless men; they came, literally, by the thousands every morning, fighting with each other for a chance for life.” (Sinclair, page 96). In the quote, Sinclair “draws” a picture of unemployment during the revolution and struggle of the immigrants to get jobs. Even though he discusses struggle of thousands of foreign citizens, the main focus of the book is the poverty of Polish immigrants during the revolution. Those immigrants lived a somewhat decent life back in Russia, or at least well enough to survive on daily basis and save some money, but when they arrived to U.S., their dream of freedom and prosperity was crushed. He reports of their lower class status and their desire to do better.
[W]as a population, low-class and mostly foreign, hanging always on the verge of starvation, and dependent for its opportunities of life upon the whim of men every bit as brutal and unscrupulous as the old-time slave-traders; under such circumstances immorality was exactly as inevitable, and as prevalent, as it was under the system of chattel slavery (Sinclair, page 129)
In the quote above, Sinclair is describes the area where the family lived in his book. As stated, it was mostly populated with lower class immigrants who were, just as this family, trying to stay alive. Most of the immigrants had a decent life of being “slave-traders” back home. However, in America, they are the slaves. The conditions were horrible causing some members of this family to struggle even more. Disease, depression and starvation were rampant because of the lack of basic needs. The ups and downs of the family are presented, as well as their battle with poverty. Their main supplier of food is Jurgis, who works from dusk to dawn to support 6 to 7 people in his household. On top of all of this, the family is trying to pay off its debts.
During the early part of the winter the family had had money enough to live and a little over to pay their debts with; but when the earnings of Jurgis fell from nine or ten dollars a week to five or six, there was no longer anything to spare. The winter went, and the spring came, and found them still living thus from hand to mouth, hanging on day by day, with literally no a month’s wages between them and starvation. (Sinclair, page 121)
Sinclair wants to get under the reader’s skin to make them feel the terrible reality of poverty experienced by people during the Industrial Revolution. He does a great job doing so, also foreshadowing that the revolution isn’t the end of poverty. The revolution was somewhat a beginning of a “disease” that will affect the entire nation. After the Stock Market Crash in the 1929, Great Depression followed as an aftermath. It was just as disturbing as the revolution. Men were dying to
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Economic development, Criticism of Christianity, Upton Sinclair, Poverty, The Jungle
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