Upton Sinclair penned The Jungle in 1905. It is the story of Jurgis Rudkus from Lithuania (62), who along with his family, came to America seeking prosperity (64). Along this journey they will encounter every conceivable hardship. They end up arriving in the stockyards of Chicago, a place termed “Packingtown” (70). Yet even though Sinclair uses the “metaphor, ‘jungle’ (denoting) the ferocity of dog-eat-dog competition, the barbarity of exploitative work, wilderness of urban life” (Phelps 1).The title The Jungle was not an effective title for this quintessential piece. The stockyards were only vaguely reminiscent of a jungle.
So what aspects, characteristics, are found within a jungle? It is the life, color, sounds and smells that make up a jungle. There is a plethora of life to be found within a jungle. There are vibrant colors, melodic sounds and fragrant smells that signify the environment one thinks of when picturing a jungle. It is these traits that are void in The Jungle. Packingtown is a wasteland, in stark contrast to the image the title referring to a jungle evokes.
Jungles are green and full of life, yet there is not “any green thing whatever, in Packingtown” (68). In a jungle there is a wide array of multiple hues and contrasts of green, beautiful flowers with all the many colors of the rainbow. There is the contrasting aquamarine water and green plant life of all sizes and shapes. Things in Packingtown are all dark, dingy and dreary. When Jurgis and family travel from the city to the stockyards, they begin to notice that the “grass seemed to grow less green”, “the colors of things became dingier” and “the landscape hideous and bare” (65). There is “never a hill and never a hollow” (65), dirty ...
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... jungle, Sinclair is hoping this story of Jurgis Rudkus will spurn a revolution for Socialism. The depraved behavior exhibited by of the American meat-packing business would need reform. The “competitive wage system compelled a man to work all the time to live” and this is just the beginning of the “barbarities of capitalism” (354). Phelps notes that Sinclair’s conclusion of Packingtown is a “moral, spiritual, and physical degradation, a ‘jungle’ in which humans lived barely above the level of animals.” (Phelps 5). This state of affairs needs a cleansing unlike what is required to transform a jungle into a civilized society. The title jungle has fallen short of the mark in conveying the full essence of what has become of the stockyards. Is Packingtown a jungle? No, it is much more horrendous. It is a wasteland, unencumbered by decency, and destroying all in its path.
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