What does the novel’s title mean?

The title The Jungle serves as an allusion to the concept of Social Darwinism and emphasizes the harsh environment that Jurgis and his family find themselves in upon arriving to America. Popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Social Darwinism is a theory which suggests that Darwin’s principle of survival of the fittest applies to politics and economics as well. Sinclair highlights this effect throughout the novel as only the strongest, most willing workers are able to keep their jobs in the stockyards. Packingtown ultimately becomes a metaphorical jungle for Jurgis as he must navigate the plethora of people and organizations attempting to take advantage of him.

How is The Jungle an example of muckraker journalism?

Muckraking was a form of investigative journalism popular in the early twentieth century. These writers aimed to expose corruption in business and politics, although they often did so through extravagant and sensationalized stories. The Jungle falls into this category for the way in which it calls attention to the brutal working conditions of the meatpacking industry and the suffering of immigrant families in the United States. While the novel’s descriptions of the unsanitary packing houses caught the public’s attention and led to the passage of food safety laws, Sinclair expressed frustration that his primary focus, the workers’ struggle, was recognized less.

How does Sinclair depict the American Dream?

Throughout the novel, Sinclair systematically dismantles the tenants of the American Dream and ultimately suggests that such an ideal is impossible to achieve. Jurgis and his family leave Lithuania to find freedom and money to support themselves, but they must fight to survive from the moment they arrive in Packingtown. The need for a job essentially traps the family in Chicago, they fail to make enough money to pay for their house, and the harsh living conditions they endure take a significant toll on the women and children. The deaths of Ona and baby Antanas symbolize the destruction of Jurgis’s family and, by proxy, the false promise of the American Dream.

How does Jurgis respond to his son’s death?

When Atanas dies in Chapter 21, he quickly leaves the family behind at Aniele’s and, without shedding a tear, jumps onto a train and heads out into the countryside. This act marks a significant shift in Jurgis’s attitude as he becomes more self-centered and embraces life as a tramp. Losing both Ona and Atanas frees him of the ties he feels to Packingtown, and he resolves to put an end to his misery once and for all. As much as he tries to move on, however, memories of his wife and son continue to haunt him.

Why does socialism inspire Jurgis?

In the final chapters of the novel, Jurgis learns of socialism and immediately becomes inspired to join the socialist movement. The speech that Jurgis unintentionally hears at the rally makes him feel seen and validated, and with Ostrinski’s help, he quickly comes to believe in the collective power of the working class. Learning the tenants of socialism helps Jurgis understand the corrupt forces working against him and his family in Packingtown, and the thought of having the ability to push back against them gives him hope for the future.