“The Jungle” + vocab

2 Jan

The Lithuanian family was tyro to the United States, and naively dreamed of the opportunities for them in the new country.  Their quixotic nature allowed them to believe they could accomplish anything with hard work.  The public was allowed to tour carefully selected portions of the packing plants, and eyes would dilate at both the efficiency of business and the cruelty towards the animals–the workers blended in with the machinery.  Instead of a belfry, the top level of the capitalist packing plants featured a mechanized assembly line to kill hogs quickly.

Jurgis proves to be an uneducated and whimsical character.  The materialist Realtor had numerous cogent reasons why buying the house was an excellent deal with no speakable consequences.  The foreign family was leery of signing a housing-contract, but after much scrutiny and deliberation could not find anything wrong with the deal .  After the lease was signed the family found out their bourgeois Realitor had used chicanery to sell them the house, and had left out important information.  The houses were meretricious and brand new in the advertisements, but were found to be in shoddy condition, just repainted for every new tenant.

The immigrants saw almost immediately that materialistic Chicago did not participate in philanthropy–no one helped anyone else and you had to screw someone over to survive.  The people of the community were all wily, and it seemed each had a scam to separate a person from his hard-earned money.  The only joke in Chicago’s vulgarian “back of yards” and wider packing plant was that they use everything of the hog but the squeal, which was really a euphemism for:  They use TB animals, downers, and rotten meat.  To the tours of outsider walked through the plants, the workers looked to be laboring with zeal–in reality they were “speeded up” so much they could barely keep up.  The martinet bosses has never-ending pull–if they didn’t like a worker, that employee could be replaced by any of the hundred eager people outside.  The employees were overworked, underpaid, and mistreated to such an extent that it caused almost all of them torpor and eventually killed them.

Through Jurgis, Upton Sinclair tells how even cows with turgid bellies were slaughtered for meat–then the unborn calves would be swept in the waste gutters.  Some parts of the factory were dangerously stentorian in noise, and men would be killed because they could not hear warnings.  It was chaos on the killing floor when the occasional steer got loose–no one could see four feet in front of him for the steam, and everyone would be running for cover holding their knives.  In some areas of the facility, the environmental conditions were so caustic, the workers would only live for a specified amount of time.

All of the philistine foreman were cold and known for their sardonic to abusive comments and behavior.  After hours, workers would perfunctorily hide the diseased animals which had been thrown into waste traps, inconspicuously in-between the healthy ones that had passed inspection.  The animals, workers, and product alike were found to be very noisome:  Animal were crowded and filthy, workers made inhuman by difficult work in dangerous conditions, and product diseased and covered in rat feces.  Conditions of the factories and the housing were unconscionable.

Nothing could be done, because parasite police and sycophant politicians who had the authority to change things weremendacious and scandalous.  Even blighted meat was put with the food product and sold to America as well as internationally.  The workers were hardly sentient after suffering all the abuses of the Chicago stockyards–they merely tried to eek out a survival for themselves and their families.

Jurgis had to upbraid his 13 year old nephew every winter because the boy was afraid of the snow after losing several fingers to frostbite and refused to walk to work on cold days.  The entire family of 12 became sick, distended and wan in the book from overwork, exhaustion, and filthy conditions.  After one member of the family would become sick or injured, the other eleven were left impecunious.  Workers would sit fallow, unable to get any work,  after suffering inevitable sickness or injury directly due to the living and working conditions of Packingtown.

The unions would attempt to arbitrate for better working conditions, but toadied union leaders were often paid off to spy for the meat packing plants themselves, so workers that rose up would be punished.  Everywhere you went in Chicago you had to be wary of legerdemain, mostly because everyone was desperate to survive.  During the brief labor strikes, there would be the shortest interregnum between the regular unskilled employees and negros and prisonors which temporarily replaced them.   Jurgis was forced to become a mendicant after he was blacklisted all through the packing district because he beat up his wife’s rapist–a foreman with political connections.  It turned out that Connor, who had committed such iniquities, had more pull than Jurgis who became politically connected.

The broad poverty was not just regaled to the stock yards–Chicago had a catholic shortage of work whether in the city or the rural areas.  In the book, the inflated owners of packingtown might as well be potentates for the swollen economic and class gaps.  When Jurgis is taken to Jones’ house by his (drunk) son, he recognizes panache and financial power everywhere.  After Jurgis got $100 from Jones, the saloon barkeep which he entrusted to change it for him, bilked him and gave him 94 cents instead of the $99 he was owed.

Jurgis was swayed to political frenzy by the rhetoric of a Socialist Party Member.  The last portion of Upton Sinclair’s book was an orotund propaganda pamphlet for the bulging Socialist movement–I suggest skipping the end over as nothing substantial happens.  Wider America saw Socialists as libertine crazies.

By the end of the book, the family had to have six members interred–all of which would have been avoidable in better conditions.  Nelson Morris Packing opened in 1889, closed in 1935;  Swift Packing Company opened in 1893, closed in 1967;  Armour Packing Company opened in 1903, closed in 1959.

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