Chicago Stockyards: Hell on Earth
Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle is a novel written to describe the deplorable conditions faced by those who work in the Chicago stockyards in the early 20th century. The protagonist, Jurgis, is a Lithuanian immigrant who comes to America in order to make a wonderful life for him and his family. Not only are his working conditions horrific, but also his family life slowly but surely starts to deteriorate and he soon has even less than he ever did in Lithuania. Sinclair applies the use of imagery, irony, and extended metaphor to reveal the lies, deceit, and filth that Jurgis faces while racing the American Dream and finding out that nothing is what it seems.
Jurgis and his family come to America. All is going well, Jurgis gets a job, and he is only cheated once before arriving in Chicago. The imagery used by Sinclair clearly demonstrates the filth in which the men of the stockyards are forced to work. The word choice of “waded” alone paints a picture in the reader’s head that workers are knee deep in filth, blood, and innards. Also, as a cherry on top, it is a “sweltering” day in July. Sinclair’s imagery throughout the novel is similar in effect and makes the reader see and smell the olfactory wonders that are the Chicago Stockyards.
When Jurgis comes to Chicago, he thinks that life will be worry free and successful. However, Jurgis becomes trapped in a world of crime, punishment, and lies. Throughout the novel, Jurgis endures 14 hours workdays but his family is still starving, the house is not paid for, and nearly everyone in his family has to work to just try to stay alive. When Jurgis gets hurt on the job, these problems only intensify. Jurgis lives in an ironic world. The only time Jurgis receives proper care occurs when he is in jail for battering the man named Connor that had his way with Jurgis’ wife, Ona. While Jurgis is in jail getting free food and free shelter, the family is still starving and force...