What are some examples of figurative language in The Jungle by Upton Sinclair?

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sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is a graphic novel.  Sinclair does a great job expressing to the reader the utter brutality and horrific living conditions within the slums of the novel.  The struggles of the characters are described in vivid details that cause emotional responses to the text.

One way that Sinclair is able to do that is through personification.  The following quote is a good example.  

"Jurgis could see all the truth now -- could see himself, through the whole long course of events, the victim of ravenous vultures that had torn into his vitals and devoured him; of fiends that had racked and tortured him, mocking him, meantime, jeering in his face. ...And they could do nothing, they were tied hand and foot -- the law was against them, the whole machinery of society was at their oppressors' command!"

The quote takes a social construct, business or government, and personifies in a way that makes it feel as if the business structure is a living creature that is actually trying to torture and mock Jurgis.  Obviously a corporation can't do that, but Jurgis is responding to his plight as if a single "bad guy" is making his life miserable.  

The following quote works well too: 

"Now and then a visitor wept, to be sure; but this slaughtering machine ran on, visitors or no visitors. It was like some horrible crime committed in a dungeon, all unseen and unheeded, buried out of sight and of memory."

It's a combination of personification and a simile.  Machines don't run, but in the quote they do.  The simile is comparing the packing industry to medieval dungeons, which were not known for being nice. 

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