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The Jungle Reflection Essay


In his 1906 novel The Jungle Upton Sinclair explores the problems, or evils as Sinclair might say, associated with America’s transition to industrial capitalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Sinclair examines the relationship between the emerging industrial system and immigration, urbanization, boss politics, scientific efficiency, and socialism. Your assignment in this reflection essay will be to assess Sinclair’s treatment of these topics by answering one of the questions below. Each question concludes with a question about how The Jungle offers a comment on our contemporary debates about immigration, political corruption, and the challenges of capitalism. For this last section of your essay, you may want to look up a current newspaper or online source examining one of these issues. Use this source in your paper but also provide your own perspective on the topic.

Paper format:

Your answer should be between 3 to 5 pages, typed and double spaced. In your essay you should use the course reading materials, including handouts and lectures. I expect you to use specific examples from these sources to back up your arguments and I expect you to quote from these sources, especially from The Jungle. Use internal citation for this essay. Lectures should be cited as follows: (Kamerling, 4/5/19). Outside research is not necessary, though you may find it helpful in answering some of the questions. If you use additional outside sources, then you must also include a bibliography with your essay. IN answering the final question, you may want to look up some online news sources to provide a contemporary perspective.

Bonus points are awarded for interesting paper titles.

Questions – Answer ONE of the following questions about The Jungle:

  1. Immigration.

The Poles, who had come by the tens of thousands, had been driven to the wall

by the Lithuanians, and now the Lithuanians were giving way to the Slovaks.

Who there was poorer and more miserable than the Slovaks, Grandmother

Majauszkiene had no idea, but the packers would find them, never fear (Sinclair, 66).

What does this quote by Sinclair suggest about his understanding of the role immigration played in the meat packing industry and in the life of Chicago? What did Sinclair get right and what did he get wrong in his portrayal of immigrant life? How does the discussion of immigration in Sinclair’s The Jungle offer a comment on the contemporary debates we are having today as a nation about immigration and it’s role in shaping American identity?

  1. Boss Politics and Urban Life.

The city, which was owned by an oligarchy of business men, being nominally

ruled by the people, a huge army of graft was necessary for the purpose of

effecting the transfer of power (Sinclair, 244).

As the above quote indicates, Sinclair’s Chicago was ruled by corruption and graft. Write an essay assessing the strength and weaknesses of Sinclair’s portrait of boss politics and urban life in the Windy City. What larger comment about the impact of industrialization on city life is Sinclair making. How accurate is his critique? What are the solutions to the problems Sinclair discusses? How does the discussion of immigration in Sinclair’s The Jungle offer a comment on the contemporary debates we are having today as a nation about scandal and corruption in American politics today?

  1. Socialism and The Evils of the Industrial Capitalist System.

[Jurgis] would get a glimpse of the Beef Trust from all sorts of aspects, and he

would find it everywhere the same; it was the incarnation of blind and insensate

Greed. It was a monster devouring with a thousand mouths, tramping with a

thousand hoofs; it was the Great Butcher—it was the spirit of Capitalism made

flesh (Sinclair, 305).

In the above quote Sinclair argues that monopolies like the Beef Trust were devouring the nation with their greed. Sinclair intended The Jungle to be a devastating critique of the evils of the emerging industrial system and a work which offered socialist political philosophy as an alternative to capitalism. Assess Sinclair’s discussion of the problems of industrialization in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. Also examine Sinclair’s proposed solution to the evils of capitalism. Finally, in light of Sinclair’s critique and proposed solution, ask yourself what role should the government play in addressing the problems associated with industrialization? How does the discussion of the evils associated with industrial capitalism in The Jungle offer a comment on the contemporary debates we are having today as a nation about the problems connected capitalism today?

Unit III: Modern America

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