The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is a dreary story that depicts the life of a working man in the early
twentieth century. The book shows the horrid working conditions placed about the Chicago factory
workers and the horrors of the standard of living. The book follows behind an immigrant from Russia
who hopes to strike it rich in America. Sinclair consistently throws problems at the man who runs from
one scenario to the next.
The title of the book comes from an old saying, "it\'s a jungle out there." meaning that the world
is so complex and busy, it is hard to comprehend all that is taking place. That is exactly how the book is
portrayed, as a jungle. So many things are going on like crime, politics, corruption, business, and
families, that the main character has a hard time trying to adjust from his simple struggle to survive in
Russia.
The novel takes place in Packingtown, a small area in Chicago during the early 1900\'s.
Packingtown is made up of a a few stores and two big meat processing plants. The whole area is based on
the plants where most of the people are employed. Packingtown is not a pretty place. The air is filled
with a black smoke that pours all day long from the big factories. The streets are not paved and the
working conditions are terrible. The setting is a perfect place for a man to struggle from one problem to
the next without ever finding the solace of comfort and relaxation. The time is important to the novel
because it is before any laws on working conditions and food quality have been established. The novel
takes place in several time sequences where Sinclair briefly stops to explain the new problem that the
main character must overcome.
The main Characters on the novel are Jugus, the man of which the story follows, Ona, Jurgis\'s
wife, Elzbieta, mother in law of Ona, and Marija, Ona\'s cousin. Jurgis is the main character of the novel
and the only person who makes any change at all. Jurgis is a big man who starts work in one of the
killing beds in a meat factory. Jurgis is a man who only wants the best for Ona and when faced with a
problem uses the motto, "I will work harder." Ona is a "mere child" whose physical and emotional
fragility allow little chance for survival. Elzbieta is a woman who endures tragedy after tragedy
throughout the story. Marija is an orphan. She is a young woman of immense energy, powerful body, and
commanding voice. Characterization in the story is illustrative. The reader does not know the characters
in the story any better on at the end of the story as he did at the beginning. Once described, the character
does not deepen or become more understandable. All of the characters in the story have a purpose, they
all are there to have something happen to them. The range of characterization is small and all the
characters are similar in actions and words. There dimensions are all the same and so is their level of
believability. The working laborer is depicted and shares little differences from the intellectual upper-
class man. Also, characterization is entirely external. The author always tells the actions of the character
and tells what they are thinking. The process of thinking and moral choice are never shown.
Jurgis is faced with many problems throughout the story but none more apparent than that of
poverty. The level of poverty in Packingtown is that of a lower standard than we are accustomed to.
Jurgis has high hopes for him and his family when the story begins and he has his job at the killing beds.
But an injury stops his plans of a good lifestyle short. After healing from the injury Jurgis finds out that
he no longer has his old job and must search for a new one. Jurgis is unable to find a job and following
the death of one of Elzbieta\'s crippled children Jurgis goes to work in the fertilizer plant, a place where no
man chooses to go if he can help it. Then Jurgis finds out that Ona has committed adultery forced