The Jungle

7 July 2016

What societal reforms did the novel, The Jungle, purpose? What governmental reforms did the novel call for? Do you think The Jungle was effective in bringing about societal and governmental reform? The Jungle, a largely informative, eye-opening novel written by Upton Sinclair, tells the horrible truths about life in Chicago and America in general in the early twentieth century. Sinclair wrote this famous piece with the hopes of educating the public on the struggles faced by the average American, along with the many societal and governmental reforms that needed to be put into effect.

The pages overflowed with realities everyone had to cope with, many of which are very heartbreaking and disturbing. Though there were numerous upsetting issues, many of them could have been avoided with the proper societal and governmental reforms put in place. Throughout the novel, society is looked upon as a sort of monstrous association. One of the most talked about issues is the workforce.

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The working conditions in companies were atrocious; there were risks of disease, ailments, and even death running high at everyone’s workplace. People worked themselves to death trying to make a living! Laborers weren’t paid a lot either.

They risked their lives every day for maybe $1. 50 pay. The very low wages put a lot of stress on families, where we see one example of how the workforces take away from families. Another example of this is when Ona gave birth. She had to return to her job the day after giving birth to Antanas, leaving her with no time to be a mother. There was definitely a need for a societal reform in this area. Companies needed to have compassion for their workers and realize how hard they are working. Sinclair made it very clear that a raise in wages and a decrease in risks at the workplace needed to be put in place for the welfare of the employees.

The flaws in the idea of the American Dream were shown throughout the novel as well. Society basically made it impossible to reach the full success of living the American Dream by putting yourself whole-heartedly into your work. We see the example of this with Jurgis and his family, who all worked very hard and yet still came up short in the long run. An additional example is when Jurgis decides to get into the life of a criminal. It is shown that thievery and crime are far more rewarding than commitment to hard work. Jurgis made more money in one robbery than he would in months working for a company.

The American Dream had become a hoax, and there needed to be reforms put into place to reward the hard working individuals and take from the criminals. Finally, readers learn that there is a small upper class and a very large lower class. The upper class works together easier because it is small, and by them working together they can succeed in getting what they want. The lower class needed to assemble into groups so they could fight together for what they all needed instead of against each other in the “wage slavery” act.

There were so many societal reforms that were a necessity to bring about so everyone could live a happier life in America. Just as there were many flaws pointed out in society, there was an equal amount pointed out in the government. All in all, the government was corrupt in many ways. The security system, for example, was very shady. This is shown when Jurgis and his family first arrive in New York and encounter a corrupt police officer, who talks them into spending a ton of their money staying at a very expensive hotel.

The court systems of America were rigged, as they were bought out by rich, powerful men such as Phil Connor. The laws of the government weren’t followed. For example, child labor laws were not obeyed and labor reform laws, which aimed at preventing abusive labor practices, were ineffective. Government inspectors didn’t do their jobs, as they would let many packages of meat go by without bothering to inspect them for tuberculosis and other deadly diseases. And lastly, the voting systems were fixed, which was shown when Jurgis fell into a trap and was paid to vote a certain way.

There was definitely a requirement for governmental reforms to be put in place quickly. The American government needed to supervise all its elements to ensure change in the way things were being run. With all the information that was given by Sinclair in The Jungle, I believe this novel was highly effective in bringing about societal and governmental reform. Within the novel, there are so many shocking facts about the way life was for the average American worker, along with disturbing truths about society and the government.

There were references that the life of a worker was a struggle for survival back then. If you didn’t sacrifice your integrity, your health, and yourself in whole, you didn’t survive or succeed in the world. An example of this was Marija. In the end, she completely sacrificed herself and went into prostitution because she was completely broke. But when she did this, she earned money that she didn’t have before, which somewhat helped keep her alive. Another thing The Jungle exposed to readers was the false idea of the American Dream.

Sinclair displayed the destruction of families at the hands of the government and society itself. One by one, each family member in Jurgis’ family was affected by the poor living and working circumstances. The American Dream was made out to be such an amazing thing, but in reality it was a very tough life to lead. Something else that was made clear to readers was how workers were treated. Companies almost dehumanized laborers, putting them in awful work environments, basically sending them to their death beds.

And lastly, the way people were swindled was exposed, with the example of Jurgis and his family buying their “new” home, which was actually just a rental built many years ago out of shoddy materials. Upton Sinclair definitely exposed so many of the horrible truths that millions of people were facing. I believe once readers learned of these facts, they realized there was a need for societal and governmental reform. I do think there is a very good chance that The Jungle played a role in bringing our society and government to where it is today.

All things considered, The Jungle is written proof that life in America in the early 1900s was not very glorious. Numerous societal and governmental problems were faced every single day by the majority of people in the large lower class. Yet, although reading of these issues is disheartening, it’s rewarding to see how far we’ve come as a country. Multiple societal and governmental reforms have since been put into effect, and the result is we are a very strong political power. Even though we will always have our problems, America has come a long way from the way it was in the early years of the twentieth century.

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The Jungle. (2016, Jul 28). Retrieved November 16, 2019, from https://newyorkessays.com/essay-the-jungle-3/
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