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The Struggles of Families in Poverty in The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

“In twentieth-century America the history of poverty begins with most working people living on the edge of destitution, periodically short of food, fuel, clothing, and shelter” (Poverty in 20th Century America). Poverty possesses the ability to completely degrade a person, as well as a family, but it can also make that person and family stronger. In The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, a family of immigrants has to live in severe poverty in Packingtown, a suburb of Chicago. The poverty degrades the family numerous times, and even brings them close to death. Originally the family has each other to fall back on, but eventually members of the family must face numerous struggles on their own, including “hoboing it” and becoming a prostitute. The Jungle, a naturalistic novel by Upton Sinclair, reveals the detrimental effects that a life of poverty exerts on the familial relationships of immigrants in Chicago during the early 1900’s.
The most obvious effect of poverty remains the material aspect. The family has no money, therefore they cannot afford a good of decent quality. They can only purchase subpar goods. The family gets cheated numerous times in money related incidents. The housing agent cheats them the most, as they must pay much more money then he told them they would. Not only do they get cheated on the insurance, but they pay much more for the house than the value of it. The bosses cheat them as well: “big businesses had become even bigger. Large corporations were making a great deal of money, and some owners and managers became very rich. However, most of the people working in business and industry were not getting rich” (Duyne). When problems arise with the house, the family can only buy cheap goods to fix them with. When the...

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...ous struggles of Jurgis and his family. Not only does the family suffer from poverty, but they also suffer from a poor knowledge of English, the glares of the townspeople, and the damaging effects of hard manual labor. The family gets harmed by the bosses in Packingtown as well, they receive unfair wages for long days at work. They also get deceived by the housing agent, forcing them to pay much more money for the house as a result of insurance, an expense they were not prepared for. As a result of the hard manual labor and his name being put on the blacklist, Jurgis resorts to “hoboing it” just to survive towards the end of the novel. The poverty tears the family apart: they end up splitting up towards the end of the novel, all going separate ways. Poverty negatively impacted the familial relationships of thousands of immigrants in Chicago in the early 1900s.

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