What problems and solutions associated with industrialization does Upton Sinclair present in The Jungle?

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The Jungle exposes the harsh reality of industrialization in Chicago. Upton Sinclair's main characters, Jurgis and Ona, are Lithuanian immigrants who have a baby out of wedlock, which is not viewed as acceptable by society. They move to Chicago in hopes of a better life and end up working the assembly line at one of the local meatpacking plants. They live in poverty and are exploited by employers, banks, and landlords. The workers themselves have no power because they are viewed as replaceable robots. This causes them to become very suspicious of each other and eventually leads to riots when one worker gets trampled during a protest march.

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Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, which was first serialized in a socialist newspaper, became an improbable best seller. Sinclair wrote this sentimental novel exposing the ruthless exploitation of workers in the United States in order to make a plea for socialism. Readers, however, were primarily shocked at the description of unsanitary conditions in the Chicago meatpacking plants. Sinclair's book did not bring socialism to this country, but it did influence legislation that allowed for government inspection of food supply and created the Food and Drug Administration. Sinclair famously said, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."

Sinclair depicts an innocent, hardworking Lithuanian immigrant family that cannot get ahead because the system is stacked against them. They have no protections: no minimum wage, no sick leave, and no unemployment insurance. When they try to buy a house, they have no defense against an unfair contract that they do not understand, which inevitably leads to foreclosure. After the death of his wife, Ona, Jurgis stumbles onto socialism and finds meaning and purpose in it.

While sometimes exaggerated in its depiction of a family that suffers every horror brought on by industrialism, Sinclair did illustrate a world of raw capitalism. In this setting, workers have no rights because the logic of the factory renders them as widgets in a huge profit-making machine, rather than humans. The owners of the meatpacking plants and other factories, as well as the owners of farms hiring migrant workers, simply wanted to gain the most possible work from their employees for the least possible wages. Like Marx, Sinclair argued that industrialism destroyed the relationship between owner and worker and turned workers into dehumanized wage slaves. While the United States never became socialist, worker protections that we take for granted today were advocated by Sinclair in The Jungle. These benefits, such as fairer contracts and unemployment insurance, help provide a better life for the average person.

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In The Jungle, one of the major problems Sinclair sees with Industrialization is its emphasis on money, something he hopes is minimized with an embrace of socialism.

A significant part of Jurgis's character is his willingness to work for money. When he says, "Leave it to me; leave it to me. I will earn more money—I will work harder," Sinclair makes a strong statement on what he feels is one of the major problems with industrialization.  The increase of industrialization in America has created a reality where money dictates all aspects of life. Sinclair traces all of the problems his characters face to this reality.  Poor living conditions in Chicago are because people cannot afford to live in a better area.  In these areas, workers must spend so much money in order to make ends meet:  "What had made the discovery all the more painful was that they were spending, at American prices, money which they had earned at home rates of wages – and so were really being cheated by the world! The last two days they had all but starved themselves – it made them quite sick to pay the prices that the railroad people asked them for food."  The unsanitary working conditions where food is prepared and where workers struggle are because the owners take short cuts in order to increase their profit.  When Jurgis mugs his first victim, his guilt is offset when he is reminded that the victim "was doing it to someone as hard as he could."  Ona must sacrifice her dignity and go to work as a prostitute in order to make money for her family. 

Sinclair sees industrialization as having created a reality where people are dehumanized in the face of money. People are treated as means to an end. Industrialization has limited individual freedom because economic accumulation is its only metric for success. It has created a system where workers toil for very little while owners make much more.  Sinclair believes that socialism would change this because of its call public ownership of wealth.  The communal approach to wealth is a compelling solution to the problems of private industrialization.  Sinclair feels that the Socialist call for improving everyone's condition can help to alleviate the sufferings that excessive industrialization has brought to so many in America.

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