Secondly, he attempts to show the advantages of socialism in helping to remedy the problems of a society such as the one that exists in Chicago at this time. Sinclair accomplishes his objectives with an extremely powerful story. Jurgis Rudkus and his family seem to be an average immigrant family of the period. They are not wealthy and they are easily fooled by schemes designed to take what little they have.
The language barrier encountered by these people is a major factor in allowing them to be swindled. The immigrants of this period tend to trust anyone who is fluent in their native language. This fact is put to use twice early in their time in America. A Lithuanian lawyer is sought to read over the contract for the purchase of their house. Jurgis is suspicious when the lawyer and the agent are on a first name basis.
However, when the lawyer tells him that it is a legal and fair document, Jurgis believes him. The lawyer does not tell him of the loopholes that will eventually lead to the loss of the house. After Jurgis works in the packing house for a while, a man tells him in Lithuanian that he can now become a citizen. Jurgis is then registered to vote, and told about one of the candidates. Nothing is said of the other candidate, so he votes for the man that he is told of, and receives money for this vote. Another problem faced by most of the immigrants of Chicago is making a living.
Jurgis gets a job on the first day trying. He is paid the princely sum of $1. 25 a day. In Lithuania, this is a lot of money. With the wages of himself and his brother, the entire family should be able to keep solvent.
Due to the hidden charges for the house, he finds that he is dreadfully wrong. Eventually, all of the family members must seek work, just to survive. Life becomes a ‘hand-to-mouth’ proposition. Even after the family loses the house, things do not get any easier. During this time period, there is no such thing as job security. All of the packing houses have a ‘speed-up’ policy.
If a worker did not keep up the pace, there are thousands of hungry people in the streets begging for work. This leads to very dangerous working conditions. As Jurgis finds out, even the slightest accident can lead to the loss of a job. After his recovery from a sprained ankle, Jurgis must join the thousands in the streets looking for work. The way that the family must live leads to the death of several of the family members.
Among these are Jurgis’ father, Dede Antanas; his wife, Ona; and his son, little Antanas. After these tragedies, Jurgis leaves Chicago for a time, and ‘hobos it’ in the country. In doing this, he finds a way of life that is similar to the one which he left in Lithuania. In the winter, however, Jurgis must return to the city. Upon his return, he sees the other side of the coin. He becomes involved in crime, graft, and vote buying.
He is now the man who goes around registering new immigrants to vote, and pays them money for it. Jurgis finds that there is a comfortable living to be made doing this. However, he is still confronted with the problem of fleeting success. During this period, much racial unrest in present in the country. People do not like immigrants, because they take the jobs and they drink too much. Sinclair addresses both of these gripes in his book.
The ‘speeding-up’ is the reason that the jobs go to immigrants, who are willing to work for anything. The living conditions are the reason for the excessive drinking, according to Sinclair. Jurgis most stay out of the cold of winter to survive. There is no other place for him to go except a saloon. He must drink to stay inside for a while.
If he drinks, he receives food as a bonus. This consumes most of his savings when he is out of work. Near the end of the book, Sinclair accomplishes his second objective. While Jurgis is trying to find a warm place to be, he happens upon a socialist rally.
Sinclair attempts to show the reader that socialism could have averted all of Jurgis’ problems. Sinclair succeeds in getting his point across. The reader is brought into this appalling life that Jurgis is forced to lead, and then is offered a solution to the problems presented. Another reform that Sinclair had mot planned on was the reform of the Meat Industry. The conditions depicted in the packing houses is disgusting.
During this time, American meat products were not accepted by many countries because of the poor quality. The Food and Drug Administration is created to clean up the industry. This actually benefits the packers. After the clean-up, U. S. meat is imported by many countries, opening up fresh markets for the packers.
Upton Sinclair is supposed to have said that he aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident he hit it in the stomach. This work paints a very vivid picture of the world of the immigrant of the early 1900’s. It makes the reader think about the injustices that existed then, and to some extent, still exist. The story seems to be true to life, and not the least bit contrived. The reader is wrapped up in the life of Jurgis Rudkus. Every time he seems to be on top of things, he is knocked off by some unseen force.
The book is very difficult to put down because the fate of the main character always seems to be hanging on the brink. This book is an indispensable insight into the history of the era. However, the socialist propaganda at the end seems to be a bit hard to accept. It is too large of a dose, and seems to abandon Jurgis.
This appears to be the only problem with the book, and can be almost overlooked by the reader, if it is desired. Upton Sinclair wrote a very impressive work. It is definitely worth the time to read it. It shows many facets of life during the period. The storyteller has a very dynamic person to narrarate. The hopes and dreams of a generation of immigrants to the United States are presented in a very thought-provoking manner.
——————————————————————————–Copyright 1995-99 Cybersoftcontact us Words/ Pages : 1,202 / 24