Most Disturbing Scene From The Jungle

I have chosen two quotes to illustrate the disturbing nature of The Jungle because both of them equally made my heart grow sick and my stomach turn.

Chapter 7

“There were many such dangers, in which the odds were all against them. Their children were not as well as they had been at home; but how could they know that there was no sewer to their house, and that the drainage of fifteen years was in a cesspool under it? How could they know that the pale-blue milk that they bought around the corner was watered, and doctored with formaldehyde besides? When the children were not well at home, Teta Elzbieta would gather herbs and cure them; now she was obliged to go to the drugstore and buy extracts–and how was she to know that they were all adulterated? How could they find out that their tea and coffee, their sugar and flour, had been doctored; that their canned peas had been colored with copper salts, and their fruit jams with aniline dyes? And even if they had known it, what good would it have done them, since there was no place within miles of them where any other sort was to be had? The bitter winter was coming, and they had to save money to get more clothing and bedding; but it would not matter in the least how much they saved, they could not get anything to keep them warm. All the clothing that was to be had in the stores was made of cotton and shoddy, which is made by tearing old clothes to pieces and weaving the fiber again. If they paid higher prices, they might get frills and fanciness, or be cheated; but genuine quality they could not obtain for love nor money.”

Chapter 14

“There was never the least attention paid to what was cut up for sausage; there would come all the way back from Europe old sausage that had been rejected, and that was moldy and white–it would be dosed with borax and glycerine, and dumped into the hoppers, and made over again for home consumption. There would be meat that had tumbled out on the floor, in the dirt and sawdust, where the workers had tramped and spit uncounted billions of consumption germs. There would be meat stored in great piles in rooms; and the water from leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of rats would race about on it. It was too dark in these storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over these piles of meat and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung of rats. These rats were nuisances, and the packers would put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread, and meat would go into the hoppers together. This is no fairy story and no joke; the meat would be shoveled into carts, and the man who did the shoveling would not trouble to lift out a rat even when he saw one– there were things that went into the sausage in comparison with which a poisoned rat was a tidbit. There was no place for the men to wash their hands before they ate their dinner, and so they made a practice of washing them in the water that was to be ladled into the sausage. There were the butt-ends of smoked meat, and the scraps of corned beef, and all the odds and ends of the waste of the plants, that would be dumped into old barrels in the cellar and left there. Under the system of rigid economy which the packers enforced, there were some jobs that it only paid to do once in a long time, and among these was the cleaning out of the waste barrels. Every spring they did it; and in the barrels would be dirt and rust and old nails and stale water–and cartload after cartload of it would be taken up and dumped into the hoppers with fresh meat, and sent out to the public’s breakfast. Some of it they would make into “smoked” sausage–but as the smoking took time, and was therefore expensive, they would call upon their chemistry department, and preserve it with borax and color it with gelatine to make it brown. All of their sausage came out of the same bowl, but when they came to wrap it they would stamp some of it “special,” and for this they would charge two cents more a pound.”

It is hard to read these quotes and to really understand them as once being a reality. The life in Packingtown was all about scam, deciet and the struggle to stay alive amongst it. The irony lies in the idea that the Family of Jurgis and Ona came to America under the impression that they would be “free,” and yet they did not even know what being free meant. They landed in a society where there was no escape from suffering and essentially no freedom at all. Death lingered all around them, and there was absolutely no way of breaking free. Everything they used, everything they ate, and saw, and touch was tainted and contaminated. Everything they came in contact with contributed to their struggle and despair. Where they lived, there was no truth. Everything took on the identity of something it was not. This larger facade is represented by the jobs they hold, the work they do, the house they live in, the milk they buy, the food they eat, and the America they live in. The people in this society have become desensitized to the atrocious and degrading practices of the very industry they help propel. Consequently, people become desensitized and numb towards one another and the horrible misfortunes around them. This is all the result of necessity, and the struggle to survive. It is unnerving to read about the lengths people will go to and the horrible oppresions they will endure in order to simply stay alive.

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4 Responses so far

  1. 1

    na'tori ariington said,

    April 30, 2013 @ 9:45 am

    ii read this article and it was interesting some what i didn’t fall asleep it was like it was true i all cases.

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    September 25, 2014 @ 5:13 am

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  3. 3

    LY said,

    April 28, 2016 @ 3:11 am


    » Most Disturbing Scene From The Jungle Literature and Technology

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