Discuss the social criticism in The Jungle.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that an argument can be made that Sinclair's work contains nothing but social criticism.  In one light, Sinclair's work brings to light the condition of immigrants entering America at the turn of the century.  The people who enter America, like Jurgis and Ona, believe in the power and hope of the dreams that are present in America.  They recognize that some sacrifice will be needed in order to achieve those dreams.  However, Sinclair brings to light the condition of how people like Jurgis and Ona are abused and mistreated under the guise of "the American Dream."  In this condition, Sinclair is making the argument that there has to be something in place to protect the rights of those who are the most vulnerable, individuals who endure language difficulties, cultural challenges, and the psychological experience of leaving one realm for the better hopes of another.  Linked to this is a criticism of the capitalist machine driving American business.  Sinclair's indictment of capitalism as a type of force that seeks only profit at the cost of human beings is something that is heavily criticized in the novel.  The economic setting that uses people as means to an end, as opposed to an end in its own right is something that is brought out in the novel that demands change.  Business practices that devalue both consumer and worker are evident in the novel's meatpacking plants and something that Sinclair criticizes in American society.

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