Type: Review
Pages: 4 | Words: 1014
Reading Time: 5 Minutes

The Jungle is a novel that was written by Upton Sinclair, an American journalist, in 1906. The book was initially written to address or bring to light the life of several immigrants in the United States. However, according to what literature is, interpretation of a given work or prose is normally different and depends on the interpreter’s immediate environment. Hence, most of the readers today have come up with other forms of interpretation mainly affected by the current environment. Different form of interpretation definitely implies emergence or cropping up of  initially unidentified thematic contents of the book. The book is, therefore, rich in several themes, such as corruption, family and tradition, capitalism, and poverty.

The paper will employ a lucid explanation of the major theme in the book, i.e.capitalism evils in the society. Capitalism has its historical background in the early 1900s. It is an economic dominant, mainly common in the western world, which came into being due to the end of feudalism in the US. It has elements of private ownership of a means of production, accumulation of capital, wage labor, and competitive markets. In the book, capitalism is a dominant theme cutting across all the chapters. The book may seem somehow thematically complicated or nuanced. Nevertheless, Sinclair gives the normal effects of capitalism faced by immigrants in Chicago. He reveals capitalism as totally evil and deceased meat to the unsuspecting public. He opts not to explore the psychological content of capitalism and presents a long litany of undesirably ugly impacts of capitalism. He also suggests ways of how socialism can be employed in dealing with capitalism. The leaders and the original residents of the region had dominated the economy of the area such that it became a serious task for them to survive even with hard work. The family faced a slow annihilation due to prejudices and economic cruelties of the people in the region. This demonstrates succinctly the effects of capitalism among the working class. This makes them prone to the existing conmen in the Chicago. 

The first half of the novel deals with a particular failure of capitalism in the United States. A twelve-member family emigrates from Lithuania in Europe to Chicago, the USA, with a hope of living a better life. They imagine a life that would be free of economic hardships. However, irony is the best word to define what the family faces in a foreign land. Upon their arrival they face the problem of language barrier. At the beginning of chapter four, Sinclair tells us how Jurgis, the main character, is treated by the boss in one of the industries in Chicago. He curses Jurgis using discriminative and abusing words. However, since Jurgis is not familiar with English, he follows the boss who shows him a place where he was to put his street clothes. He is told to change into his working clothes and start the job immediately. The job is what one could get shocked to hear. He is to ensure that a mass of carcasses in the streets are swept into a trap that is miles away and the trap closed.

The immigrants had always believed in America as a place where hard work paid well, unlike in their country. They are made use of, humiliated, discriminated against, tortured, and destroyed. This is an illustration of capitalism in its purest form. The author relentlessly portrays that capitalism is to blame for the misfortunes faced by the immigrants.

The book was written when America was undergoing its industrial revolution. This is what compelled most of the outsiders to view the nation as a place full of opportunities for those who were prepared to work. People in the expected paradise did work hard but what they called their compensation was next to nothing. They were condemned to slave away under inhuman conditions and live in abject poverty. They were paid barely enough to make them survive for a day to ensure they do not, in any way, invest in other fields that may make them independent. An example is the woman who works in the laundry as part of another industry. She receives piles of clothes, most of which are very dirty, from the industry workers everyday. She is also harassed at her workplace by the same bosses who pay her meager wages. This is capitalism at its worst, both at the political, social, and economic level. Most of the industrial bosses employ totalitarianism in their methods of management to ensure absolute control and mistreatments of the ‘marked species’.

The author also employs allegory to display capitalism in the book. He talks of ‘killing beds’ where animals are killed and their carcasses swept into the trap by the workers. The killing takes place in a planned manner. One man with a stick does examination of the skin while another one rips the skin down to the center. Killing beds, in this case, represent the industries and other working places where the immigrants were mistreated.

The title of the novel is also an indication of a competitive nature of symbols. The weak, or the prey, are engaged in a brutal fight for survival. The title also draws attention to other popular articles such as the doctrine of Social Darwinism. The idea of Darwinism was to ensure that the inferior people are kept at a certain suitable level as the society rewards the strongest. The Jungle, as we know, is a place where animals of different types live. The place is controlled by some huge and strong animals, such as lions and elephants. These big animals ensure that they get enough resources, not caring about other creatures’ welfares. The analogy to capitalism is obvious since the leaders and bosses exercise maximum control over their inferior and ‘marked subjects’ to ensure that they are economically and politically oppressed.

Capitalism in the book has been revealed in several other ways. It is a major theme in the novel and one that is still relevant to the today’s society. The book thus provides valuable insights for the reader on how the war against the vice can be waged. 

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