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Date QW Written: November 4, 2015
Social Darwinism revolves around the idea of the survival of the fittest. While this is the idea Sinclair portrays in his description of the jungle in Packingtown — ultimately, the jungle of capitalism, Sinclair only uses the idea to the audience’s benefit and understanding. In Sinclair’s jungle, the fittest do not exist. One may say the wealthy exploiters that own the factories and industries are the fittest but even their bodies are made unfit by the disease of moral crimes and wrongs. In Sinclair’s jungle, the fittest do not survive but the morally wrong and apathetic do.
Packingtown is described as an endless road of factories stretching even further than the eye can see at the beginning of the novel. This reach of the meat-packing industry represents the inescapability of the jungle. No matter where one is in the world, there will always be a predator ready to take you out of the viscious ecosystem.
When Jurgis enters the story, he is the perfect worker — determined, physically strong, and — most importantly — naive. While his strengths make him a predictable candidate of top dog in the “jungle,” Jurgis lacks the apathy needed and is too morally righteous. The symbolism is not missed when Jurgis rushes like an animal to attack Connor after Ona reveals her experiences of rape. Jurgis claws, scratches, and rips at Connor. In the end, Jurgis does not win; rather, he ends up being clawed, scratched, and ripped at by the capitalistic machine.
Sinclair’s jungle is essentially different form what Social Darwinism is portrayed as. As hogs, we are not kicked down by the top dogs of the jungle. Rather, the top dogs of Sinclair’s jungle make it easier for themselves. Through capitalism and the idea of the American Dream, the top dogs pit hogs against hogs against hogs. They do not rip us apart — we do.