The Jungle Essay

The Jungle Essay
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‘The Jungle’ is about the poor working conditions, and human rights violations at the time. It is also an illustration of corruption within the government and how corruption worsened the working conditions of the immigrants. The immigrants’ sort to find jobs and improve their standards of living. When immigrants move to places of work, they have high expectations of finding work and improving their standards of living. The jungle is a story about immigrant’s experiences in Chicago. One can recognize that the main focus of the story begins when Jurgis, Ona, and the family decide to move to Chicago. Previously, Jurgis had worked in a place characterized by bad food, filth, overwork, and cruelty. The family heard of a place in Chicago; the stockyards, where Jona’s friend got wealthy. When the family reached the stockyards, things were no different. They may have been worse. A symbol of the state in the stockyards is revealed by the smell that meets them when they first arrive. Before this, there were perplexing changes in the atmosphere, the smoke, and then the odor, which they considered pungent and strange. There house in which they settled before getting employment also shocked the family before they later looked for their own houses. The house was crowded with 13-14 immigrants in one room, and approximately 50-60 immigrants per flat. Some men shared mattresses, and the housekeeper would also rent the mattresses for those doing the night shift. Mrs. Jukniene also used the place to keep her chickens, and would release them to ‘clean the place’. Come to the place of work; there is overworking, mistreatment, and exploitation coupled with another external harshness of the environment in which the immigrants lived. Ona and her family’s story in the Jungle is a representative of the lives of the immigrants when they came looking for work in the stockyards.

How I felt when reading the book.

I felt familiar with the story because of some other stories I read about immigrant’s experiences. At the same time, I also felt sorry for the immigrants. They suffered a lot, yet one can only say that it is through these experiences that change can be obtained. Without Sinclair’s revelation, maybe this practice would have continued. Sinclair was a journalist known for revealing corruption practices within the government. As I read through, I thought; there may be corruption within government’s today, but at least there is judicial control. For example, civil rights activists seek accountability from governments and fight for human rights. In this novel, it was survival for the fittest. One example of how corruption took place is the case where Antanas was looking for a job and was offered a job on the condition that he would give a third of his salary to the man offering him the job. This was a normal practice, and as explained to Jurgis, it was just a way of making more money for the bosses. The situation stated that owners of the companies wanted to make as much money as possible without caring about how they got it. This means that even if people died, it was not a problem so long as employers made money. Other managers could bribe as much as they wanted, so long as the owner met his objectives. This was the case of Durham’s company. It is indicated that Durham’s company had a variety of managers, foremen, and superintendents in grades, just like in an army. Each man above the other would try to squeeze as much work as possible from the man below. All the weight of the pressure to work eventually landed on the man at the lowest level; who were the immigrants. No one wanted to lose his job, and so people would work in fear.

Did you know that it was standard practice that the newest immigrants be mistreated by those already here? What do you think of that idea?

I did not know that it was standard practice, but as revealed in the book, it seems the immigrants who were already within; felt like it was the time to show the new immigrants what goes on around there. Maybe the new immigrants never expected what they experienced, and maybe the ‘old’ immigrants developed this practice to scare their counterparts, or as a way to release their anger. This is a similar experience to bullying as observed in schools, especially high schools. Senior students take advantage of new students because of their lack of experience. This could be associated with human behavior. One can use this to study human behavior in specific conditions.

Why you assigned this book for reading

To understand the common structure of the society that leads to corruption; to understand the society more. To understand the need for civil rights activists and the need to fight corruption. This story reveals a lot about changes that have taken place, and one can learn from corruption in the past and the present. There are similarities and differences. From this story, one can understand the causes of corruption, how it occurs, and related factors around it. For example, it is clear that one common characteristic of corruption is greed. People driven by selfishness would do anything to get what they want without considering how he gets it, and its effects. Another common characteristic is that it leads to unfair working conditions for almost everybody except for a few ones on top. In the current society, however, if corruption and such treatments were to be exposed, even the people at the top would lose their wealth. This happens especially if the public knows about it, and the response given is retaliation from the company. People fear companies with bad reputations, and may not consume their products.

The story is also an important part of the history of Chicago, and it is important to be informed about past experiences. Reading about histories provides knowledge that helps in informed decision making. One can, for example, decide to find out the root cause of employee’s corrupt behaviors before developing anti-corruption strategies.