Social And Social Organism In Upton Sinclair's The Jungle

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The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were a time of great social and political change. With an influx of immigrants rushing to work in factories, the dynamics of culture were swiftly changing. The naïve, new Americans were easily persuaded into making decisions in voting that were greatly influenced by the corrupt individuals guiding them (Sinclair, 1906, pp. 97-98). Unknowingly, these immigrants were working very hard to prevent themselves from achieving the heavily desired “American Dream.” Upton Sinclair’s own political beliefs are reflected in his startling novel, The Jungle, which details a believable account of such an immigrant’s experience. Though it is often thought of as an exposure of the unsanitary meat packing industry,…show more content…
This political system promotes self-interest and a brand of egoism that becomes synonymous with greed when combined with a lack of human morality. The Jungle adequately represents sociologist Herbert Spencer’s idea that human nature causes us to fight selfishly for our lives, while leaving the inferior to perish (Pritchard, 1972). This “Social Organism” is shown during the scene of Jurgis and his new bride Ona’s wedding. Seeking to fulfill their own needs and desires, the wedding guests gorge themselves and avoid repayment, although monetary compensation is a long held Lithuanian tradition. This is a shock to Jurgis’s family and submerges them into the perceived lack of ethics in this new country (Sinclair, 1906, p. 15). Through this scene, Sinclair subtly introduces capitalism in a negative manner and prepares the reader for more direct…show more content…
As a well-known socialist, Sinclair’s purpose in The Jungle is to demonize capitalism. While the concept of socialism is not introduced until the end of the novel, the evils of capitalism is present from the onset. The Jungle is famous for its effect on society and its views of factory labor, even if this was not the author’s intent (Trott, 2006). The novel did, however, precede an era which heavily discussed and dissected capitalism and socialism. As the 1900s progressed, Upton Sinclair would have seen a rise in opposition to his beliefs with the Red Scare and the publishing of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (Winship, 2014). In our time, term “socialist” is now commonly used as slander against a supposedly overly liberal politician, and capitalism is a staple in American patriotism (Wing, 2012). Admittedly, our society has developed laws that prevent the tragedy that Jurgis Rudkus experienced from occurring, but our society is far from economically ideal. When half of American households hold only one percent of the country’s wealth, it is difficult to not wonder if Sinclair’s forewarning should have been more thoroughly examined (Froomkin,
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