The Jungle describes life as an immigrant in America during the early twentieth century,
how immigrants of that time dreamt of the American dream, and how they tried to achieve it.
The most important theme of the book was that life on the other side is not always better than
what one has. The dream of the American immigrant was simple: America, the great land of
capitalism, with its plentiful opportunities, would provide them with a good job and a home to
raise their family in. The work would be easy, and life would be better than it had ever been in
their native land. However, the American dream proved for many immigrants to be nothing
more than packed cities, tedious, low-paying jobs, and death. To Upton Sinclair, the cause of all
society's ills was capitalism and the remedy was socialism. Sinclair uses specific details,
symbolism, and the organization of the novel to expose the corrupt capitalism that hides
behind the American dream.
Details presented by Sinclair through both the mind of the characters and the facts of
the novel present Sinclair's anti-capitalist message. The first example of these details is when
Jurgis is in jail; he ponders "why could they find no better way to punish him than to leave three
weak women and six helpless children to starve and freeze"" (155. The American justice system
is built on the cruelty of capitalism, allowing children to perish simply because they are not
strong enough workers to survive social Darwinism. Sinclair furthers his argument against
capitalism saying that the people were dependent "upon the whim of men every bit as brutal
and unscrupulous as the old-time slave drivers" for all that they needed in life (103). The people
under the American system have no power in their own lives and cannot break free of the
social standings they have been placed in unless the prosperous let them and that will never
happen. The American dream cannot be realized because of the cruel,...