The Horrors of Packingtown
Living and Dying in Packingtown, Chicago is an expert from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which told the story of Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant trying to survive in Chicago. Sinclair wrote The Jungle with hopes to achieve better working conditions all around the United States, but also to show the corruption and evil that come with capitalism. His book was an instant best seller and caused massive reform of the meatpacking industry, however, this reform was focused on health concerns rather than concerns for the workers. “‘I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach,’ he said.” (BLACKWELL)
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Within five minutes a severe headache would develop and he would start violent vomiting after an hour. Jurgis would be quickly caked in this mess from head to foot which stunk so bad that other passengers on the streetcar would prefer to walk than stay on the cart and smell him.
Jurgis’ wife, Ona, and Elizibeta also got jobs within the meatpacking industry and were subject to similar hardship. Sinclair focuses on the actual process of meat packing and how unsanitary it was. The two women had jobs that dealt mostly with spoiled meat which was also packaged and sold. If meat was so spoiled that it could not be used for anything else, it was “pickled,” a process of injecting chemicals into the meat. Pickling could give any sort of meat any flavor and odor they wanted. Afterward the meat was seen as acceptable by buyers and sold to the public. The worst of all, however, was in the creation of sausage, which included meat that could not be pickled, moldy and white meat that was rejected in Europe and sent back, poisoned rats, rat feces, waste barrels and sawdust. It was all ground up and sent to the public for their breakfast.
Jurgis’ family came to America chasing the “American dream,” like many others, but found a lack of jobs with very low pay and terrible working conditions. Jurgis finds that the American dream is not as easily obtained and eventually their souls are crushed by capitalism and the living conditions of the poor. “They had dreamed of freedom; of a chance to look about them and learn something; to be decent and clean, to see their child grow up and be strong. And now it was all gone- it would never be! They had played the game and they had lost.” (79) Depression slowly took over the family and even the children lived in misery. Sinclair writes with a vivid and shocking style to express his personal views and reveal the living conditions of many immigrants at the time.
This chapter exposed the reader to not only the hardships of labor in the meatpacking industry...