In Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle not only symbolized an era where dirt and filth ran rampant in meat packing industry, but it also exposed people to the natural human desire of greed, power, and corruptions. This in turn was a socialist transformation itself. Sinclair also provides the meaning to the phrase “wage slavery” in different ways.
In the novel Sinclair tells a story about a man name Jurgis, a Lithuanian immigrant who gets married to young lady named Ona Lukoszaite, who’s also a Lithuanian immigrant. At the wedding there are saloon-keepers who cheats the family on liquor and beer, claiming that the guests consumed more than they actually did. Since the family had enough sense not to argue with these powerful people they decided to do as they were told. Since Jurgis felt that he was strong enough to work off the money that was owed to these people he decided to work harder.
Throughout the 1st two chapters of the novel Sinclair finds a way to talk about Socialism. Socialism is the belief that whoever controls the means of production holds the power to determine how well the people live. “The Socialists were organized in every civilized nation”(Sinclair 315). When Jurgis had made himself familiar with the Socialist literature, as he would very quickly he, would get glimpses of the Beef Trust from all sorts of aspects, and he would find it everywhere the same; it was the incarnation of blind and insensate Greed.In the Novel Sinclair also emphasizes “wage slavery”.
They will certainly be over two hundred dollars, and maybe three hundred; and three hundred dollars is more than the year’s income of many a person in this room….in ice cold cellars with a quarter of an inch of water on the floor- men who for six or seven months in the year never see the sunlight from Sunday afternoon till the next Sunday morning – and who cannot earn three hundred dollars in a year.(Sinclair 12)
Jurgis was being paid $1.50 for twelve hours of labor. Marija, family member of Jurgis gets paid almost two dollars a day. His job is to sweep the guts through trap doors on the floor of the “killing beds” where cattle were slaughtered . If a worker is one min late, he loses and hour’s pay, twenty minutes late he loses his job. The basic goal of Socialism are “common ownership and democratic management of the means of producing the necessities of life.” Jurgis receives half of his wage and the rest of the money goes to capitalists.
Jurgis and his family came to the America’s to find a better way of living and gave into the false myth that America is the land of the free and opportunity. He and his family thought that hard work and commitment to good social values will win them success. Sinclair writes this to show the betrayal of American society. Jurgis responded to this situation by saying “I will work harder”.
He persuaded the American people that many regarded with suspicion and hostility. Sinclair makes readers sympathize with their social values by emphasizing the fact that they are a Lithuanian “alien”. Sinclair portrays the practice of selling diseased and rotten meat in order to position big businessmen as corrupt liars.
In conclusion The Jungle not only revealed the way workers were treated but it also described how socialism spread. “Sinclair discovered the way to Americans heart which was through their stomachs.
- Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. New York, NY: Dell Publishing, Bantam Books, 1981.