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Promoting Socialism Through Animalistic Connotations in “The Jungle”

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In Upton Sinclair’s novel “The Jungle” the use of animalistic terms and connotations in the depictions of both the people and the politics created persuasive arguments for socialism and against capitalism.

Christopher Phelps’ Introduction states, “As a metaphor, ‘jungle’ denoted the ferocity of dog-eat-dog competition, the barbarity of exploitative work, the wilderness of urban life, the savagery of poverty, the crudity of political corruption, and the primitiveness of the doctrine of survival of the fittest, which led people to the slaughter as surely as cattle.”(1), this is the foundation to Sinclair’s arguments that capitalism promotes competition between the working-class for mere survival all the while destroying human rights and crushing the American dream.

“The Jungle” dehumanized the workers so to draw parallels between them and the animals; the objective in doing this was to show the characters of the novel as animals within the jungle of a capitalistic society. Sinclair suggests the workers are weak animals which is evident in the description of Antanas “And now here he was, worn out in soul and body, and with no more place in the world than a sick dog” (97). The author portrays Old Antanas as weak and useless to the world because he is unable to work to help support the family, the author uses the word Old to add emphasis on the fact that the older the person the less useful they are. The author also uses

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animalistic features to describe the characters as vulgar and unrefined. During one of Onas’ emotional episodes Jurgis is described “But he never thought of it, except when he was dragged to it – he lived like a dumb beast of burden, knowing only the moment in which he was.”(172). Through ...

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...he strongest arguments against capitalism is the quote “It was a monster devouring with a thousand mouths, trampling with a thousand hoofs; it was the Great Butcher – it was the spirit of Capitalism made flesh.”(334), the description of monster depicts capitalism as barbaric instead of those under the influence of capitalism being barbaric. This quote lends itself to the idea that people must fight for what they believe in, the parallel between capitalism and trampling hoofs alludes to the idea that without fighting a man could simply be stomped out.

Works Cited

Phelps, Christopher. "Introduction: Upton Sinclair and the Social Novel." The Jungle. Ed.

Christopher Phelps. Boston/New York: Bedford St. Martin's, 2005. 1-39. Print.

Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. 1906. Ed. Christopher Phelps. Boston/New York: Bedford St.

Martin's, 2005. Print.
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