?Andrew Goodman Prof. Joe Gonzales ENG 1A FINAL 23 July, 2009 Capitalism! Ecrasez l’Infame (Crush the Infamy) The Rudkus family arrived from Lithuania to find Chicago as a city in which justice and honor, women’s bodies and men’s souls, were for sale in the marketplace, and human beings writhed and fought and fell upon each other like wild animals, in which lusts were raging fires, and men were fuel, and humanity was festering and stewing and wallowing in its own corruption (Sinclair 165).
The city, during the time span of the novel, was truly a jungle-like society in which Upton Sinclair found much fault and great room for improvement. Sinclair perceived the problem in American society to be the destructive reign of capitalism. In The Jungle, he presented the reader with the Rudkus family who encountered a great deal of strife and anguish, through which the evils of American capitalism were portrayed. Upton Sinclair strongly believed in the power of the Socialist party as means of reform, so that the working class would finally have a fair chance of survival against the harsh realms of society.
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By havocking America’s supposed capitalist induced problems upon Jurgis and his family, Upton Sinclair used The Jungle as means of socialist promotional propaganda. The Rudkus family met innumerable horrific occurrences during their struggle in Chicago. The time when the family came to the United States was a period of appalling conditions for the working class. At this phase of history there were practically no workplace safety regulations at all. Employers were free to dictate work conditions as they saw fit for their own personal welfare.
There were no social safety nets such as workman’s compensation, welfare, or unemployment insurance. Also, if a person was seriously injured on the job to the point that he was prevented from working, he was simply out of work without any tolerance of the injured inquiring of his job being held during recovery (Sinclair 125). Courts at this time were solidly pro-business, and not receptive to worker’s claims of employer responsibility for workplace accidents. Jurgis and his family were faced with many predicaments related to these poor surroundings and circumstances.
The family hastily saw that they must enter the competition forced upon them in a capitalistic fashion. When he first arrived in Packingtown, Jurgis found work quickly in the meat packing industry because of his strong, young stature. As the years went by, however, and he grew plagued with injuries and financial troubles, Jurgis found work to be increasingly difficult to obtain and hold. The social system cracked down on the family and offered nowhere for the Rudkus’ to turn for help.
Not only did the family stumble upon difficulties in their workplaces, but in basic living conditions as well. Jurgis and his family witnessed such atrocities, as baby Antanas tragically drowning in the unpaved roads, devastating financial loss through misinformation concerning the purchase and custody of their house, and unsanitary meat packed and sold for regular consumption. Such incredible pandemonium was involved with virtually all of the Rudkus family’s daily activities and never ceased to cause anxiety and worry in their overburdened lives.
This desolation drove the family members to radical attempts at survival and hope for some means of liberation from their atrocious new lives in America. Ona was convinced that she would cause the family’s demise without her cooperation in Phil Conner’s crude sexual demands. At first, Jurgis ran away from it all, pursuing the life of a free man setting off cross-country while Marija turned to prostitution. Children of the family set out to work instead of gaining the vital education that they so deserved yet were deprived of. Also, the elderly Dede Antanas set off to work despite his weak physical state.
Jurgis grew steadily more tired as he aged in experience and years. He once thought to himself in a state of great misfortune and suffering, “t is a case of us or the other fellow. In these realms and others, nothing is counted but brutal might, an order devised by those who possessed it for the subjugation of those who did not” (Sinclair 229). Luckily, Jurgis found himself in the territory of a Socialist convention. He was delightfully enlightened with the ideas the speakers conveyed to Jurgis in his energetic and compelling presentation.
The socialist movement seemed to provide answers for practically all of the problems which Jurgis and his family had faced and struggled against in their strife for survival in America. The socialists saw two major problems forced upon humanity that were caused by capitalist America. These were greed and ruthless competition. Because society had its base in money and class, people did anything in their power to overcome another in order to survive in the harshness of the world (Sinclair 321).
The socialist movement claimed it could put an end to this bitter competition and greed by placing the welfare of the people as the primary concern in the hands of their government. Emphasis would be placed on the well being of the people, not the money which they each individually possessed. Working conditions, therefore, would be of initial concern. Socialism would obliterate all class boundaries, brought on by capitalism, so that the rich could no longer exploit the woes of the working class to gain profit.
According to Sinclair, the socialist movement would require a complete restructuring of society as it was known. The socialist party pushed for a society in which everything is common ground and all people are equal with no regards to class or financial standing. Socialism seemed to be the perfect approach for a quick and effective solution to the atrocities of capitalism. The Rudkus family suffered through horrifying turmoil to barely survive in the country which they once held in relation to great glory and prosperity.
The American dream of freedom and success was crushed under the many downfalls of capitalism during the Gilded Age (“The American Experience | Andrew Carnegie | Gilded Age “). Socialism, with its theoretically perfect form of government and its promises of equality and good life for all seemed to hold a bright future for the meagerly working class. Works Cited “The American Experience | Andrew Carnegie | Gilded Age” PBS, 1999. Web. 23 July 2009. . Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. New York: Signet Classics, 1960.