All conditions of life— social, moral, political, economic, commercial, climatic, bacteriological are assembled, drilled into order, arranged under the proper standards and led by converging roads to the assault
—Winston Churchill (commenting on The Jungle)
Sinclair’s unrelenting documentation of every aspect of life that contributes to suffering took a toll on this reader. Yet, it did prove to be an interesting tactic—it did prod and engage me. If the use of tension had intentionally and frequently been resolved to create stasis, or equilibrium, I don’t believe my participation would have been as active.
Sinclair crafted a deadly and stressful environment that could only be resolved with his (client’s) solution—socialism. After all, he was commissioned and paid to write a serial about “wage slavery” for the socialist newspaper, An Appeal to Reason. The editor, Fred D. Warren, advanced Sinclair $500 for the serial rights of the novel and Sinclair selected the stockyard as its setting. “The recent strike had brought the subject to my thoughts”, said Sinclair in his autobiography from 1962.
Yet, in The Jungle, there is an answer outside of socialism—LEAVE THE CITY!
Jurgis did run away after his injuries; the rape of his wife; the blacklisting; his arrest and imprisonment; the loss of his job and home; the death of his wife and child. As he tramped around the country, Jurgis was revived and felt strong again. Kind and helpful people provided food and lodging—even job opportunities. Why not stay there?
The struggle in the book becomes (not one of workers against the beef trust and capitalism run amuck; but,) one of somebody trying to stubbornly prove they can adapt to an environment.
Jurgis, for example, is challenged by Chicago and he systematically alters his strategies to survive the system. His instinctive work ethic, and his belief that right will prevail in the face of injustice both lure him back from the country to look for work in the same exact area that ruined him!After failed attempts he decides to become a criminal. As he witnesses the newer immigrants arriving—viewing life from the other side—he decides to become somebody with “pull”. HE is the one taking bribes for assisting the voters on election day. HE is getting compensated for being a union scab etc… He already escaped, why does he go back for more?
It is amazing. We are truly creatures of habit. What else causes somebody to stay in a horrible situation rather than venture out into the unknown?
In this city, I have met with my own private shit storm; but, here I remain. WHY? Who knows? Family ties, I guess. But, I’m optimistic that somewhere in this world…(far away from here) it might be better. Workers of the world, disperse!
[cue: Over the Rainbow]