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TESTS AND ANSWERS
_____ 1. Upton Sinclair
B. advocates public ownership of the means of production
C. both A and B
C. Jokubas Szedvilas
B. Phil Connor
C. Bush Harper
B. insistence of the older family members that they wait till they can afford the traditional feast
C. couple's decision to wait till Jurgis has found a job
B. collusion between the company that sold homes to the workers and the owners of the meat packing plants
C. deals between the government inspectors and the plant owners
B. reporting for work at seven though actual killing of the cattle may not start till the afternoon
C. Ona's reluctance to return to work after their child is born
B. he has outgrown Packingtown and strives for a more intellectual life
C. working harder may not, after all, solve his problems
B. when he gets into the habit of accepting free lunch in the saloon
C. as a way of overcoming the effects of working in the fertilizer plant
B. Jurgis is sent to jail for almost choking his wife to death
C. Jurgis curses the society that gives food and shelter to a prisoner but turns his family out of their home to freeze and starve
B. his family living in the attic of the widow's boardinghouse
C. Connor and his cronies waiting to avenge his attack on Connor
11. To what extent might Sinclair be called a disciple of the French Naturalist Emile Zola? Cite plot developments, imagery, and documentary techniques to support your answer.
12. A critic (Alfred Kazin) has called The Jungle "the most authentic and most powerful of the muckraking novels." In what way is The Jungle a muckraking novel? To what does it owe its authenticity and power?
13. Show how Sinclair uses language, plot, characterization, and setting to develop the metaphor of his title. Cite specific examples.
14. The Jungle is a novel of propaganda. Discuss.
15. Analyze Jurgis's role as a naif, and show how the role helps Sinclair develop his themes.
_____ 1. Jurgis finds work at a steel mill with the help of
B. Marija's employer
C. the steelworker he meets in the police station
B. an accident at Mike Scully's dump
C. his drowning in the street after a heavy rain
B. representative of all workingmen
C. both A and B
C. the widow Jukniene
B. feels his former obligations to his family in Chicago had condemned him to a life of despair
C. both A and B
B. Jurgis is impressed by the sermon of the evangelist who provides a warm hall for the beggars and unemployed.
C. Jurgis is taken to a mansion on Lake Shore Drive by a drunken young man he meets.
B. the alliance between business, politics, and crime must be overcome by a radical change in society
C. in politics, an individual is more likely to become the "user" than the "used"
B. a symbol of the sickness of society and its cure
C. the contrast between slavery and power
B. the relentless subjugation of an individual by powers he cannot control
C. a dramatic change in Jurgis's opportunities
B. requires a complete restructuring of society
C. can be advanced by paying no more for anything "than what it costs to make it"
11. Describe Sinclair's technique of varying the moods and the ways of presenting information, and show how he uses the technique to advance the plot.
12. Discuss the effects of capitalism on the family as they are explored in The Jungle.
13. How did Sinclair expect socialism to correct the political and business abuses he describes in the novel? Give specific examples.
14. Discuss Sinclair's use of humor in The Jungle, noting instances of irony and comic characterizations.
15. The inability of Old World values to survive in capitalist America is one of the minor themes in the novel. Discuss, with particular reference to Marija's experience.
11. Zola saw himself as a kind of scientist, studying the way heredity and environment determined his characters' fates. He didn't create plots, he said; nature did. A person's natural urges and hereditary flaws and strengths dictated his reactions to his environment.
Zola's books were experiments that showed how these forces boxed in his characters. With such a structure, his novels usually ended in despair. (For a more thorough discussion of Zola's technique, see the note on natural selection in Chapter 7. See also the explanation of the Naturalist approach under Themes.)
Sinclair was not a Naturalist, although he adopted several of Zola's techniques. As he said, he tried to put "the content of Shelley in the form of Zola." (The English poet Percy Bysshe Shelly was a romantic revolutionary who advocated radical solutions to social problems in his poems and pamphlets.) Like a scientist conducting an experiment, Sinclair put his subjects- a peasant family- into an alien environment to test their survival skills.
Zola reported his characters' environment in all its sordid detail. So did Sinclair- right down to dead roaches (Chapter 7). Zola detailed his characters' techniques of survival. So did Sinclair, describing, for example, how newsboys learn their jobs (Chapter 12), the eating of frozen garbage (Chapter 21), work in a fertilizer plant (Chapter 13), and life in a brothel (Chapters 27, 28). Zola let chance play a decisive role in his novels. So did Sinclair. The fate of his characters is determined by the weather (Chapter 8), or stalled trolleys (Chapter 15), or the coincidence of Jurgis's walking into a Socialist rally (Chapter 28).
But Sinclair took Zolaism only so far. The unforgiving environment took Jurgis's wife, father, and child, but Jurgis survived. For him, at least, the book ends on a promising note- a very unlikely Zolaist ending. Moreover, Sinclair did not see himself as an impartial scientist. From the dedication ("To the Workingmen of America") to the last page, he is partisan to the worker. Ultimately, The Jungle is a piece of propaganda for socialism- a far cry from one of Zola's "experiments."
12. President Theodore Roosevelt gave the label "muckraker" to those writers who specialized in exposing business abuses and political corruption. Most of these writers put their charges in magazine articles and nonfiction books, but a few, like Sinclair, incorporated them into fiction.
The Jungle contains well-researched exposes of child labor (Chapters 6, 7, 12), rigged horse races (Chapter 25), political corruption (Chapters 9, 25, and elsewhere), sexual harassment (Chapters 10, 15), dangerous working conditions (Chapters 7, 9, 11, 12, 21, 23, and elsewhere), unsanitary housing (Chapters 2, 7), unfair labor practices (Chapters 8, 20, and elsewhere), real estate fraud (Chapters 6, 10), spoiled and adulterated food (Chapters 3, 9, 11, 14), and many other abuses. The authenticity of the charges is backed up by a wealth of detail, including a footnote on U.S. regulations (Chapter 9).
Sinclair has a knack of making us share his outrage. He related his exposes to people we care about, so that we are outraged when we read of diseased meat or unpaved roads killing children (Chapters 13, 21) or when crooked judges give Jurgis unjust sentences (Chapters 17, 25) or when Dede Antanas is refused a job because of his age (Chapter 5) and is then finally killed by the job he does get (Chapter 7).
Furthermore, Sinclair's exposes- especially of the meat-packing industry and working conditions there (Chapter 9)- contain so much visceral detail that they knock the wind out of us. (For more on muckraking, see The Author and His Times and the chapter-by-chapter discussions.)
13. Greed and ruthless competition- two conditions of unbridled capitalism, Sinclair contends- have turned Chicago into a jungle. "Take or be taken," "kill or be killed" are guiding rules.
Sinclair uses similes and metaphors to drive this point home. For example, in Chapter 15, Ona has the "eye of a hunted animal," and Jurgis pants hoarsely, "like a wounded bull." Jurgis "sprang" into a room to find Connor, "his prey," "this great beast." He fights "like a tiger," and like a jungle cat sinks "his teeth into the man's cheek." Such images crop up throughout the novel.
Characters act like animals, and two even have nicknames that suggest the wild. "Bush" Harper and "Buck" Halloran are two evil political operators no one should turn his back on. Indeed, "Bush" Harper, the last time we see him (Chapter 26), is passing off his planned theft of Jurgis's savings as an act of friendship.
The setting is a natural expression of the novel's title. Sinclair sums it up (Chapter 17): Chicago was "a city in which justice and honor, women's bodies and men's souls, were for sale in the marketplace, and human beings writhed and fought and fell upon each other like wolves in a pit, in which lusts were raging fires, and men were fuel, and humanity was festering and stewing and wallowing in its own corruption." It was, Sinclair says, a "wild beast tangle."
Sinclair structures the plot to give Jurgis (and us) a guided tour of this jungle. Jurgis learns that Brown's meat-packing plant is "a seething cauldron of jealousies and hatreds; there was no loyalty or decency anywhere about it, there was no place in it where a man counted for anything against a dollar." As a consumer, Jurgis learns about fraud- by real estate agents, manufacturers of roach powder, trolley car companies, saloon keepers. He sees the jungle as a member of Chicago's underworld, too. (His partner, Jack Duane, says of life there: "It is a case of us or the other fellow.") In these realms and others, "nothing counted but brutal might, an order devised by those who possessed it for the subjugation of those who did not" (Chapter 24).
14. The Jungle is designed to sell its author's solution to society's problems. That solution, socialism, is not presented until the last four chapters, where a number of speeches, dialogues, and conversations spell out its promise. The first 27 chapters represent Sinclair's description of the problem: a world turned into a jungle by the ruthless competition and greed built into the capitalist system.
In many ways, these chapters are the most important. Before we're willing to accept, or even consider, Sinclair's solution, we must accept his definition of the problem. He must prove to us that capitalism debases every institution and person it touches. Plot, characterization, setting, language- Sinclair uses all these tools to persuade us that his vision is correct. (See the answer to the previous question for examples.)
Unfortunately, Sinclair's solution does not have the force, in fictional terms, that his description of the problem has. The reason: His argument, so full of concrete detail, becomes unfocused and abstract when he introduces socialism. Thus, the last four chapters miss their mark. "I aimed at the public's heart," Sinclair said, "and by accident I hit it in the stomach."
As propaganda for socialism, The Jungle fails. But as a description of the effects of an oppressive economic system and an industrial nightmare, the book is a resounding success.
15. Sinclair sets up Jurgis as a naif in Chapter 2. (See the discussion of Chapter 2.) Jurgis brushes off "stories about the breaking down of men," for "he was young, and a giant besides.... He could not even imagine how it would feel to be beaten." The men who hear him size him up as a country bumpkin. "It is plain that you have come from the country, and from very far in the country," they say.
The rest of the novel describes Jurgis's education about the real world. Again and again, he or people he loves are cheated, "used up" by work, killed, injured, sexually abused, and exploited in other ways. Along the way, Sinclair develops his themes: about the recklessness of capitalism, the exploitation of children, the brutalization of the worker, and so on.
With all his strength, Jurgis is powerless to prevent any of the catastrophes that befall his family. The man who begins the novel as a defender of "rugged individualism" ends up as an advocate of collective action, of democratic revolution led by the working class.
11. The first 27 chapters embody a long downhill slide into disillusionment and despair. But along the way, the characters rest on plateaus of optimism, taking time to catch their breaths and hoping for better luck. For many of the characters that lucky break never comes; for Jurgis it doesn't occur until Chapter 28, when he discovers socialism.
The alternation of up-and-down moods is evident in almost every chapter, beginning with the wedding feast in Chapter 1. The chapter opens in a rush of excitement, with Marija riding herd on the guests and with the musicians playing frenziedly. The mood sags when Marija teaches the musicians a sad song and Dede Antanas gives a lugubrious speech. A lighthearted speech by Jokubas has the guests smiling again and picks up the pace; the dancing that follows is joyful. But the happy mood begins to fade when it comes time to ante up money for the wedding feast. By the end, drunkenness, fatigue, and the approach of another working day have sunk the party into a sea of gloom.
Similar mood swings mark nearly every chapter- so much so that a happy mood is usually a clue that disaster is near. Jurgis's job in the harvester plant (Chapter 20) encourages him "to pick up heart again and make plans." A paragraph later, he is laid off. The next time that he begins to "make plans and dream dreams" (Chapter 21), he returns home to find little Antanas dead.
Sinclair varies the way he presents information, too. For the most part he summarizes the action. Other times he dramatizes it, with actual scenes and dialogue. In many muckraking passages (Chapter 9, e.g.) he simply describes what he sees, like a nonfiction writer. At the end of the novel, he turns to speeches (Chapters 28, 31), dialogues (Chapter 31), and lectures (Chapter 29) to explain socialism.
The technique of varying moods and ways of presenting information adds suspense to the plot and helps hold our attention. Some readers complain that he overuses summary narrative. Yet it is hard to imagine how he could cover the ground that he does without relying so heavily on this technique.
12. The families as a whole in The Jungle can't withstand the effects of greed and competition any more than their individual members can. Jurgis's extended family disintegrates before our eyes. The "system" claims the lives of two adults and three children. Another member- Jonas- disappears. Marija becomes a prostitute, Elzbieta a sick woman whose children pick up "wild and unruly" ways on the streets.
Throughout the novel, Sinclair makes it plain that family life for the wage-slave is incompatible with a brutal economic system. In Chapter 10, at Antanas's birth, Jurgis becomes "irrevocably a family man." Yet the little time he has to see his baby makes him feel the "chains" about him more than ever. Only when he is out of work with an injury (Chapters 11, 21) can he enjoy his child.
Nor can husbands and wives enjoy each other. Whenever Ona and Jurgis "talked they had only their worries to talk of- truly it was hard, in such a life, to keep any sentiment alive" (Chapter 12). They are torn apart by the pressures on Ona to become a boss's mistress. Ironically, for the sake of the family, she gives in to the man's demands.
Nicholas Schliemann, the ex-professor of philosophy, believes that "no sane man would allow himself to fall in love until after the revolution" (Chapter 31). The battering taken by Jurgis's extended family shows why. With a family, a worker is especially vulnerable to exploitation. Only when he is left on his own, without wife and child, does Jurgis feel free enough to reject a job offer in the country.
13. In a socialist economy, private individuals would no longer own the "means of production." Factories, mines, mills, farms- all would be owned by the public and run democratically. The immediate effect in Chicago would be that the workers would take over the packing plants from the Durhams, Browns, and Joneses. Public ownership would do away with the profit motive. The economy would no longer be a place where people could satisfy their greed. With greed and profit eliminated, people would not feel compelled to take advantage of each other, to "take or be taken."
The workers who ran the enterprises after the revolution would also presumably have no incentive to sell adulterated or spoiled meat or otherwise to cheat customers. Nor would anyone have an incentive to exploit labor- to "use up" workers the way profit-oriented capitalists did.
The competitive wage system would vanish, and wages would rise. Working conditions would improve, because workers would no longer have to settle for any job. They could pick and choose, and most would choose not to work in dangerous places. But rather than pay extremely high wages to lure workers, it would be cheaper to modernize packing plants and hazardous factories.
Government would be free of corruption. Sinclair traces political corruption under capitalism to greedy businessmen trying to get the power of the government on their side. Since there would be no reward for greed under a socialist system, no one would have any reason to "buy" government officials. True democracy would return, cooperation would replace competition; and the jungle would become a Garden of Eden.
14. Some people think that irony is the highest form of humor because it is the most subtle; it says one thing and means another. Sinclair uses irony throughout The Jungle.
Some examples: In Chapter 3, Jurgis says, "I'm glad I'm not a hog," after watching hogs led to slaughter- yet Sinclair, with an allegory, has already suggested that he is. In Chapter 5, Sinclair parodies advertisements by having Jurgis accept their outrageous promises literally, as if they had been prepared by people who wanted to "see that his health and happiness were provided for," In Chapter 27, Sinclair mocks a Republican senator's pitch for protective tariffs by calling them "an ingenious device whereby the workingman permitted the manufacturer to charge him higher prices." Naming a bulldog after a war hero- and thus mocking the war hero- is another form of irony (Chapter 24).
Several of Sinclair's characterizations are comic. The elfin Tamoszius is funny in Chapter 1, funnier after he falls in love in Chapter 8 with his opposite, Marija, who "could have picked him up and carried him off under one arm." The greasy Madame Haupt, the midwife, is a grotesque who makes us laugh nervously in Chapter 19. Sinclair uses Freddie Jones, the teenage son of a major meat packer, to satirize the lopsided values of the rich. Tommy Finnegan, in Chapter 8, seems to serve no other purpose but comic relief. He's a harmless nut who tries to interest Jurgis in the "shperrits"- higher intelligences that "may be operatin' upon ye." Of course, there are forces working on Jurgis- the inexorable forces of unbridled capitalism. If Finnegan is in touch with those, he doesn't show it.
15. Many of the immigrants in the novel are determined to maintain the values they brought with them. Marija is seen trying to uphold them on the first page- seeing "that all things went in due form and after the best home traditions." By the last chapter, she has renounced those traditions and accepted life as a prostitute and dope addict. She has "come to regard things from the business point of view."
Marija's renunciation of the community values she learned in Lithuania isn't complete. She uses her money to support Elzbieta's family- what's left of it. Yet she has become a criminal. She is following a pattern described in chapter 1, when freeloaders break the "compact" of the veselija and refuse to contribute. "Since they had come to the new country, all this was changing; it seemed as if there must be some subtle poison in the air that one breathed here."
Greed and competition force even the young to adapt or perish. Elzbieta, who begged neighbors for the money to give Kristoforas a proper burial and Ona a requiem mass, must send Nikalojus and Vilimas into the streets to sell newspapers. She can't prevent them from "taking on the tone of the new environment"- swearing, smoking, gambling (Chapter 13). By Chapter 31 they are living at home, thanks to Marija's largess, but they are "very much the worse for their life upon the streets." In an economic jungle, where the rule is "Take or be taken," the Old World communal values cannot thrive.
TERM PAPER IDEAS
© Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.