The constant pummeling in The Jungle reminded me of the movie Requiem for a Dream. If you haven’t seen it, it is a hard knocks story of four individuals and their drug usage, particularly heroin and diet pills. I remember how depressing this movie was the first time I saw it. There is no happy ending for these four individuals. They only spiral deeper and deeper down into their own personal hell. The old woman becomes a vegetable after having to receive electroshock, one man ends up in jail, the other loses his arm due to a festering wound created by the heroin needle, and the woman engages in prostitution only to use the money on more heroin. The film refuses to allow audience to breathe.
Requiem for a Dream does the same thing that The Jungle did 100something years ago. Sinclair pounds his reader with constant despair. Jurgis and his family are bombarded with pain and misery due to a poor standard of living, low wages, and the visual terrors that occur in the stockyards. Jurgis starts out with a positive mentality believing that working harder will earn him more money or more success, but in the end working harder only breaks his bones and his positive outlook. He loses his will to work an honest job, if you can call any of the jobs he worked honest, he loses his father, his wife, and two children, one child was never able to breath air outside the womb. Jurgis is bombarded with pain and misery. He runs away for a while after little Antanas drowns in the muck that surrounds their dilapidated house. He freeloads off the world learning that life is not always about working harder, but rather working around the difficulties in search for the littlest pleasures. While Jurgis is freeloading Marija and the remaining family lose the house. Marija must resort to prostitution in order to make a decent amount of money and provide for the family. Prostitution is needed for survival in this case compared to the woman in the aforementioned movie.
I was more in shock with the poverty that Sinclair portrays than the disgusting things that happen at the meat factories. Even though the characters were not fully developed, the torment of poverty was. Poverty and extremely poor living conditions of these characters was what Sinclair was displaying in order to get the readers to feel some sentiment for the under privileged working class.
When I think of their poverty, I wonder how different things are for people today who have emigrated from another country and are living in poor conditions. Are there families living in Chicago today that have similar conditions like Jurgis and his family?