In The Jungle, how do specific characters respond to events in the story?

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

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I think that Jurgis' responses to the conditions placed in front of him are unique and interesting.  On one hand, the start of the narrative reflects how Jurgis buys into the American Dream and the pursuit of a capitalist state of being in the world.  Jurgis does not question authority and capitulates to this reality because it is "expected" of him, almost in a way of having to "pay his dues."  Yet, over the course of the novel, Jurgis displays a sense of resistance.  When he defends Ona's honor, he ends up experiencing the downside of the system of capitalism where power and money are synonymous with one another.  It is in this light, where resistance is seen and Jurgis starts to actively construct a reality that is antithetical to what is depicted as the "American Dream."  Jurgis recognizes the corruption in the world, and his responses to it are to first be a part of it, but by the end, he actively opposes the construction of what the world is and strives to establish what it should be.  In this light, Jurgis starts to create a system of life that is different from what he initially believes.  The character who at the outset of the narrative simply said that "I have to work harder" is now one who recognizes that Socialism is the only approach that can overcome the failures intrinsic to Capitalism.  This is a marked difference in characterization and also one that defines Jurgis' response to the events in the book.

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