Minority Groups In The Jungle Upton Sinclair, one of Americas most important and influential radical voices, wrote The Jungle, a combination of reportorial expose and a salvation through Socialism story. The book has harrowing descriptions of tainted meat, a tainted environment, and the degradation of human labor. The purpose of The Jungle was to make laws come into effect to make meatpacking and food safer, but also educating voters depending on their necessities. However, most of all Sinclairs conversion plot offered a socialist alternative to Packingtowns brutal inequalities that comes along with the images of workingmen of America. These were not only an oppressed class, but they were also being used up by the trusts and in disadvantage in the capitalist jungle. Sinclair was trying to show that the cure to all the problems showed in the book would be a new environment, based on a socialist economy, where cooperation would replace competition.
The clues of how the conditions of the minority groups were hideous, start appearing when 1 week after Ona had given birth to her first baby she had to return to work. The lack of rest leads to womb trouble and Sinclair shows us that this is not an isolated case. The great majority of women in Packingtown suffered in the same way, and from the same cause.(Page 108) Good medical treatment was costly and it seemed that there never seemed to be an end to the things they had to buy. (Page 100) At one time it was insurance on the house, then taxes, water fees, etc. All the money that had gotten for the month seemed to run out in no time.
There was never an opportunity to save money. Everything they received was always spent. Without savings there was a certain difficulty to find good medical care. The medical care available for the poor was inadequate, so Ona and others with womb trouble often relied in patent medicines of dubious value. One can see how inadequate the conditions are when we first meet Madame Haupt. She was a Dutchwoman, enormously fat when she walked she rolled like a small boat on the ocean . .
. she wore a filthy blue wrapper, and her teeth were black. (Page 182) She was their only hope at the price they could afford, $1.25. After 6 weeks digging tunnels, Jurgis has another job injury and ends up in the hospital. After Christmas he is discharged from the hospital even though he was in terrible condition still.
At this point Sinclair compares the heartless industries with this public institution. It does not stop here there is more. Child labor was something very typical. Children such as Stanislovas were forced to lie about their age so they would be able to work. At the time Stanislovas was 14 and had to say he was 16. His sister, Kotrina suffered the fate of working-class females.
She was 13 and already had o take care of the household. Vilimas and Nikalojas were pulled out of school and began selling newspapers. Jurgis father was already old and because of his age and his weakness he could not find a job. Industries said he could not handle the number of forced labor hours. Later he found a job.
There he would deal with deadly chemicals. Industrial capitalism is an efficient slaughtering machine that sacrifices its workers. Businesses take no responsibility for their workers. They use up the young and strong and discard the old and weak. They had got the best out of them they had worn them out, with their speeding up and their carelessness, and now they would throw them away. (Page 124) Their workers are exposed to awful occupational diseases, but the industries do not even care about protecting their employees. Workers felt the need to begin drinking to ease the pain of the exaggerated amount of energy and force exerted into their jobs. We could even compare the situation of these workers with slaves.
However, in this case both the master and its slave had the same color of skin. Masters did not whip his workers, but he would make them work in absurd speeds, which in this case could be considered the same thing. Its a trap for Jurgis and other workingmen because the need to support a family makes them vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation. Sinclair throughout the whole novel tries to point out that Jurgis and other workingmen have to begin realizing that they are on the bottom. They cant get disillusioned with the idea that if they work hard they will get there.
It happened with Jurgis, when he allowed himself the luxury of making plans and dreams he lost his job at the harvester. They have to face reality. People who worked with their hands were a class apart, and were made to feel it. (Page 101) The orator that gives the Socialism speech that inspires Jurgis compares the horrors of war to the sufferings and death that result from the struggle between the workers and their masters. Jurgis gets a job digging tunnels for a subway freight line, which is part of a scheme made by the Chicago merchants to break the union of teamsters who haul goods above the ground.
They brought councilmen who will approve the plan. This is a perfect example of how politicians and businessmen conspire to keep workers powerless and poor. Also, those workers in their struggle for survival often do things against their best interests. Jurgis starts out by earning 17 cents per hour, in other words $1.50 for a 12-hour day. However, Ostrinski explains later that workers have only their labor to sell, and jobs go to the lowest candidates.
So workers are forced by the system to accept wages that they can barely live on. Workers can not have the luxury of choosing what jobs they want and how much they want to earn. That is why they are obliged to accept whatever is offered for them. This is the so called competitive wage system. A system where workers compete to sell their labor. The same thing happened to women. However, in their cases they can sell their bodies, which is practically all they have left.
When people are starving and they have anything with a price, they ought to sell it. (Page 291) The workers were an oppressed class that was being used up by the trusts and were in disadvantage in the capitalist jungle. One by one the immigrants went through all the troubles the lower class of Chicago had. It was even said that during that time 1 out of 7 people in America was an immigrant. Under capitalism, .
. . all the fair and noble impulses of humanity . . .
are shackled and bound in the service of organized and predatory greed! . . . women are driven by hunger to sell their bodies to live . . .
Homeless and wretched men willing to work and begging for a chance are starving . . . Children are wearing out their strength and blasting their lives in the effort to earn their bread! . . .
Mothers struggle to earn enough to feed their little ones! Old people cast off and helpless await death . . . living off these are the masters of these slaves, who own their toil . . .
They live in palaces, they riot in luxury and extravagance . . . the whole of society is in their grip, the whole labor of the world lies at their mercy. (Page 304) Bibliography The Jungle, Upton Sinclair History Essays.