Essay Sample on The Jungle by Upton Beall Sinclair

  • Category: Books, Literature,
  • Words: 1069 Pages: 4
  • Published: 17 April 2021
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In The Jungle by Upton Beall Sinclair, he argues against traditional America, but the most compelling is Sinclairs commentary on the capitalist economy America is living beneath. Upton Sinclair’s position is that Capitalism only destroys the lives of the poor, and hard-working, while lining the pockets of the already rich, and powerful. and argues that we should move to a more socialist society, and he attempts to get the reader to agree with the primary use of ethos in his novel.

Upton Sinclair uses ethos primarily in The Jungle to show the dangers of capitalism through the struggles of Jurgis, and his family, being swindled by big businesses and almost never receiving respite. One example of this usage is when Ona weeps in bed at night, condemning this new life: “So often this mood would come to Ona, in the nighttime, when something wakened her; she would lie, afraid of the beating of her own heart, fronting the blood-red eyes of the old primeval terror of life. Once she cried aloud and woke Jurgis, who was tired and cross” (Sinclair 136). This comes soon after she has to find a job, and receives work at the meatpacking plant, sewing hams into packaging, and often has sudden mood outbursts where she realizes how low her life is. This is a compelling use of ethos because it can relate to the reader, because most people have had sudden bursts of emotion at night when trying to fall asleep. In this case, Ona is doing so because her life might never be the same as what it once was in Lithuania. It also helps to highlight the dangers of capitalism, as when the family realized they would have to pay interest, and insurance, and such, Ona has to abandon her time watching the children and keeping the house nice with Teta Elzbieta, and if the contractor of the house had told them all the details previous, they wouldn’t be in such a shock and scramble to find work to just barely scrape by, which will often strike something in the reader, as they realize how bad life can be for the impoverished of America.

Upton Sinclair is very fond of a different type of economic system than that of capitalism, socialism, where the production and distribution of goods and services are controlled and shared by the workers, and the wealth is owned by the public or state, and under a socialist system, everyone works for wealth that is in turn distributed to everyone else, and the government decides how that wealth is distributed. This means that there theoretically would be that many people in the 1%, and not that many living in poverty because the wealth is distributed behind the confines of the government. Upton Sinclair was extremely favorable to socialism, and during most of the final chapter of the book, he gives his thoughts on the ideology through the characters Fischer, Dr. Schliemann, Maynard, and Lucas, and the most compelling piece of evidence for socialism comes from the character Dr. Schliemann, when he says: “‘just as soon as labor is set free, then the price of such work will begin to rise. So one by one the old, dingy, and unsanitary factories will come down—it will be cheaper to build new; and so the steamships will be provided with stoking machinery, and so the dangerous trades will be made safe, or substitutes will be found for their products’” (Sinclair 343). After reading this, It can almost be certain that this made Jurgis despise capitalism just as much as Sinclair, because it was what had destroyed him in America, and by the doctor saying that the factories could be rebuilt safer and such giver Jurgis a glimmer of hope. Business owners only work  on the basis of making money, and they will more often than not do whatever they can to obtain the most amount of money possible, and because of this, they will pay their workers poor wages, as well as having unsafe factories because they’re cheaper. For example, the cause of  Jurgis being out of work for a few months was due to a dingy factory with unsafe atmospheres and equipment, eventually contributing to his family’s financial ruin. 

Upton Sinclair argues heavily against capitalism in his novel, The Jungle. A big way that he does this is the families struggles throughout the book, such as having Stanislovas lie to an employer, saying he was sixteen, just to help the family get by, but one of the biggest, and the most powerful argument he gives comes in the form of business exchange between Ona, and her boss, Connor, where Connor offers money to Ona for sexual favors, but eventually he rapes her: “‘I did not want—to do it,’ she said; ‘I tried—I tried not to do it. I only did it—to save us. It was our only chance’” (Sinclair 150). This shows that not only does Ona have to do special things for people just in order to pay off their house, but that she would have to risk her familial relationship in order to stay afloat. Upton’s arguments and position also make complete sense from a business and even personal perspective, meaning that capitalism has only swindled the poor, and funneled even more money into the pockets of the rich and powerful business owners. Another big way that Sinclair goes against capitalism is when a steer breaks loose at Jurgis’s meat packing plant, due to unsturdy equipment, as well as a lack of safety measures, and instructions. “A time of peril on the killing beds was when a steer broke loose. Sometimes, in the haste of speeding-up, they would dump one of the animals out on the floor before it was fully stunned, and it would get upon its feet and run amuck...It was in one of these mêlées that Jurgis fell into his trap” (Sinclair 114). In this case, the steer broke loose due to most likely a faulty stunner, because the greedy capitalist owner of the plants most likely wanted to sped as little as possible, while also making as much as possible. As stated in the previous paragraph by Dr. Schliemann, if the labor was free to do what they want, the price of getting laborers would go up, and newer, safer factories, likely with efficient stunning methods would be put up, and would also educate the workers and have safety protocols if a steer does break loose again.

In The Jungle, Sinclair condemns capitalism in a way that could change a reader’s perspective after reading cover to cover. He often uses ethos to get his point across, gives a solid alternative to capitalism, socialism, and shows front and center, the starving, and sick working class of America as they get swindled by big businesses, and get forever depressed thanks to the large corporations and their ability to swindle under the protection of capitalism.

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