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Date QW Written: November 6, 2015
Prompt: Free write
The Jungle is the result of Sinclair’s employment of yellow journalism, the practice in which muckrakers explicit the harsh and brutal realities in the early 1900s. While Sinclair was asked to exploit the meatpacking industry, he has his own agenda to pitch socialism as the solution to all of our capitalistic problems.
Without the knowledge of such background, the audience of the novel finds an interesting narrative in the lives of a Lithuanian family in Packingtown, Chicago. Sinclair develops his characters extremely well, especially when it comes to Jurgis and his dynamic shift from an unsuspecting victim to an aware victim — seemingly an insignificant change but important in Sinclair’s purpose. Through talking about the disgusting Bubbly Creek filled with flammable filth and the workingmen who fell into the factory vats, Sinclair highlights all of the moral wrongs and deleterious effects of capitalism.
Sinclair ultimately manipulates the characters we have begun to empathize with to serve his pitch of socialism. Yet, his narrative isn’t obviously manipulative until the end of the novel. In the last two chapters of the novel, Jurgis’ character falls flat is almost never mentioned. These last chapters serve as Sinclair’s treatise of socialism against capitalism. Although many characters — from the quiet college girl to Professor Schliemann himself — are introduced in these chapters, they lack the human character and fullness of previous characters in the narrative. Sinclair essentially abandons the narrative and reminds the audience that all of the struggles and unfortunate circumstances he relates in the chapters before can be solved — through socialism.
This shift from narrative to treatise may have been anticlimatic for the unaware reader until the ending — “Chicago will be ours!” However, the shift is reasonable when the audience is aware of the origins of Sinclair and The Jungle itself.