Predators and Prey in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle

Predators and Prey in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle

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Predators and Prey in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle



Throughout Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, the author demonstrates the greed of Capitalism and how it gives politicians and businessmen the ability to exploit the immigrants population. Sinclair's main purpose in naming the book, The Jungle, is to put the reader's focus on the heartless politics of Capitalism. If he had named the book Stockyards or Packingtown, a person's concentration may be solely on these places. It is evident that Capitalism does not equally distribute the industries ruling, but rather allows certain groups to dominate the workers. The businessmen and politicians took advantages of this right and did not allow the immigrants to respond. They treated them very poorly, often working them so hard that they died or suffered from life long injuries. Since the story's main setting is in Packingtown, the reader is familiarized with this town and is engrossed with its surroundings. With the title The Jungle, the reader will want to closely examine why Sinclair chose this title instead. With another name, the reader might have been inclined to get distracted by the gruesome details and not have realized the Socialist concept that he was trying to convey. This title was necessary to enthrall the reader's mind to think about his purpose.


The life in Packingtown resembles the jungle life because the weak and the old are rejected, while the strong and the young are wanted for awhile, which is the main idea in Social Darwinism. "Here was Durhams's, for instance, owned by a man who was trying to make as much money out of it as he could, and did not care in the least how he did it; and ranged in ranks and grades like an army...each one driving the man next below him and trying to squeeze out of him..." (63). In the jungle, it is evident that the animals care little of other species when they kill. heir main motive is to capture food. As is the case, for the politicians and businessmen, who gain immense power through Capitalism. These men manipulated the immigrants to become successful, which was their main objective. "Jurgis talked lightly about work, because he was young...He was the sort of man the bosses like to get hold of.

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..If he were working in a line of men, the line always moved to slowly for him..."(26) "why, they would "speed him up" till they had worn him out and then throw him into the gutter"(64). This illustrates how the "predators" in this case, find a strong, young workman. They will use this "prey" for all he is worth, for as little pay and then when he has given all he has, the "predator" will spit him out. This theory continues to show how corrupt and needy people can be to gain success, by comparing it to the need that an animal has for food.


The theme of Social Darwinism continues by exemplifying that survivors learned to adapt to their new surroundings,"... for nobody rose in Packingtown by doing good work. You could lay that down for a rule- if you met a man who was rising in Packingtown, you met a knave..." This exemplifies that in order to survive in Packingtown someone usually had to adapt by becoming merciless. This concept can be linked with the ideas of animals in the jungle because they must be brutal when they are pursuing their next meal in order to survive. Elzbieta's daughter, Kotrina, is forced "like most children of the poor , prematurely made old; she had to take care of the baby; she had to cook the meals and wash the dishes and clean house..."(133). However, Kotrina learned to adapt to the life situations presented before her. Perhaps, by taking on all this responsibility at thirteen she was able to gain a better understanding about Packingtown life. Some adaptations the characters went through concluded corruptly, such as Marija and Jurgis' and other characters continued to handle life as it occurred a day at a time, such as Teta.


The Jungle's title may be one of the most important parts of the book. It is a hint to the theme that Capitalism is bad and leads to corruption. Without the title a person is liable to get so engaged in Sinclair's hideous descriptions of the meat industry that his point on Socialism might be missed. It allows characters to be depicted as "predators" and "prey." It also permits the reader to see how society can be so greedy that we would need to use other human beings to build us up, like food builds up nutrients for an animal.

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