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A Summary and Review of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle
Upton's Sinclair's book portrayed a wide variety of characters to convey his messages. Only one character can be considered a major character, Jurgis Rudkus. The book revolves around Jurgis' life in Packingtown. The supporting characters, transitioned in and out of the story with great frequency.
When Jurgis initially arrives in Packingtown from his native Lithuania he can best be described as being large and powerful. He believes in the work ethic to a point of na vet . His sole answer to any setback: "I will work harder." Eventually Jurgis learns that no laborer can make enough to be the sole provider for his family. His only recourse is to send his wife and children out to work. Soon Jurgis begins to discover certain injustices that the meat packers employ to exploit their workers. Workers are worn out by a "speed-up" system, they are not compensated for illnesses or injury incurred from their work, and they are literally paid by the hour, anything less than a hour does not get compensated. Jurgis, frustrated with the current conditions in the meat packing industry, that uses the men the same way they use swine (every part), joins a Union, as does Marjia, and various other members of his family. Investing money into a home and life into his job gets a Jurgis no where. Positions of power tend to go only to the corrupted characters. Bribes and kickbacks come as commonly as unemployment and job insecurity. He finally realizes that even a physically strong man, willing to work hard, can be beaten by the system; indeed, the system must defeat and discard him as part of its "progress" through exploitation of people for profits. Eventually his luck runs out and Jurgis is injured upon his the killing beds at the meat packing plant. His foot swells and he has no other recourse but to lay in bed and wait until his foot heals. Ironically, he is free to enjoy the company of his son only when he is laid off from work. In just a few years after immigrating to the country, he is brutalized by circumstances to the point of ruin. His once mighty stature has been reduced to rubble, and looks seedy and wretched. He acts dull and beats young Stanislovas into going to work. After two months of waiting, with bills pilling up, Jurgis goes back to work to find his job filled by another man. Due to his large house payment and the need to eat, Jurgis takes the worst possible job in Packing town, the Glue factory. By this time he has taken to the bottle and has started to move father and farther away from his family. The children have all been put to work, as well as his wife, Ona and his Grandfather-in-law Deda Antonias.
To make matters even worse, Jurgis finds out that Ona has been forced have sex with her Boss. This totally enrages Jurgis, he runs to the Packing house to find the boss, Connor, and then beats him savagely. After his arrest he must serve on month in jail. During his stay in jail he meets Jack Duane, and becomes somewhat good friends with him. Within the month his family is in shambles. The children now, for the most part, live on their own, various family member are dead, Ona is about to deliver a child, everyone has lost their jobs, and the house that they struggled so hard for has vanished away. By the time he finds Ona she is in mid child birth and in need of medical assistance. Due to his current lack of funds, Jurgis finds a Dutch lady to deliver his child for $1.25. Even with the help of the Dutch lady Ona and the child dies.
After Ona's death in premature childbirth, their son's dies in an accidental drowning while his father is at work. Jurgis then takes to the country as a tramp. Through his journey in the country he gets somewhat rejuvenated, and returns to his old stature. He works when he needs to, and travels and sleeps when he wants. By winter it becomes obvious to him that he can not
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Literature, Meat packing industry, The Jungle, Jurgis, Upton Sinclair, American literature, Fiction
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