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fanuzzir
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Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams

The first several chapters of the novel lay out all the great rituals of Americanization that immigrants were supposed to look forward to: getting a job, buying a home, starting a family. In the beginning is also a wonderful wedding that seems to bring all the customs of the Old country intact into the United States.

It's typical of novels of this period to make happiness and personal dreams part of a larger economic drama, but this portrayal has has a special poignancy. Enjoy getting to know these characters in their working and domestic lives.
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PaulK
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams

The opening chapter on the wedding was great. It certainly portrayed the difficulties the family faced but it also showed some optimism or at least a hope that things could get better by the strength of the love of Jurgis for Ona and the toughness of Marija. However the next 5 chapters methodically take away most hope and are very depressing. I hope the book does not continue with the non-stop painting of a very bleak picture although I fear it does. I thought Dickens had some bleak stories but at least he had some comic characters to lighten the mood. Sinclair is certainly not subtle in making his points about the working conditions and corruption.
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Choisya
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams & Weddings

[ Edited ]

Message Edited by Choisya on 01-22-200706:57 PM

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PaulK
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams & Weddings



Choisya wrote:
You asked us elsewhere what contemporary relevance the novel had today and I found the wedding scene to be very contemporary. Not only immigrants, but many quite poor working class people, still spend thousands of pounds/dollars on their wedding instead of using the money to improve their lives or 'saving it for a rainy day'. (I have neighbours living in a small council house with two young children, who this year spent £14000 ($28000?) on a wedding in Barbados which they would have been better spending (IMHO) on a deposit to buy a larger house.) I never have been able to understand this tradition and told my four children that I would not spend money on extravagant weddings but would give them money towards setting up their first home. It is even worse to have this sort of extravagance when marriages often break down after a few years - at least the Jurgis' and Onas would be more likely to have the rest of their lives to pay off their debts!

I also deplore the modern trend (does it exist over there?) of aping the upper classes by hiring stately homes, top hats and tails, horses and carriages etc etc for weddings. Sorry if I offend anyone here who has done this but it is a bete noir of mine.

I felt that the extravagant and chaotic wedding described by Sinclair set the scene for the downward spiral I feel will take place in the rest of the novel. It depressed me:smileysad:




fanuzzir wrote:
The first several chapters of the novel lay out all the great rituals of Americanization that immigrants were supposed to look forward to: getting a job, buying a home, starting a family. In the beginning is also a wonderful wedding that seems to bring all the customs of the Old country intact into the United States.

It's typical of novels of this period to make happiness and personal dreams part of a larger economic drama, but this portrayal has has a special poignancy. Enjoy getting to know these characters in their working and domestic lives.







I do agree with you in your opinions of spending huge sums on weddings. I think one good option is to tell your children how much you are willing to give them and let them choose whether to uses all or part on their wedding.
In the Jungle I believe they had hopes of making a profit on their wedding but too many people did not pay for a dance with Ona or just came for the free beer. The whole experience is just another painful lesson they learned.
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BenKitchen
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams & Weddings

I hate weddings lol. Thats all I am gona say to spare you the negativity. I have come to the point that when I get married I am just going to elope. The first chapter however is my favorit chapter in the book, I think it is the best written.
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams & Weddings

I wanted to post this letter in two treads. My aunts dad worked in a steel mill close to the time period of this book. I thought it might interest some of you.


Hi, Ben,

It's great to hear from you, and I'm so glad you've discovered the world of literature. It can add a new dimension to your life.

Yes, my father was a steelworker at Armco, but I'm afraid I can't tell you much else. He died when I was 13, and he had been sick for some time before that. I only remember that he often worked nights. There were 3 shifts. One was 4 (p.m.) to 12 midnight, and one was 12 midnight to 8 a.m.

I don't think Armco in those days was like the place that Sinclair wrote about. Of course the work was hard. But it was considered a relatively good place to work, with relatively good pay. I never heard any complaints about oppression or whatever and don't remember anything about safety issues. I take that back. My brother, Albie (Albert like our father), worked there as a "rigger." I don't know what that is, but it required him to work at heights and he fell once and hurt his back. He was ok, but I think he had chronic back problems after that. Ethel would remember these things better than I.

What I do remember may surprise you. I thought the steel mill was beautiful. At certain times of the day there was color in the sky like a sunset, but it was coming from the mill. And the structure of the mill fascinated me, with the interplay of the horizontal and vertical. A few years ago I discovered that a major photographer, Edward Weston, took pictures of Armco in the early 1920s, when he went to Middletown to visit his sister, who happened to live there. He appreciated its beauty, too. If I can figure out a way to send you some of those images, I'll do so.

Happy reading,

Aunt Jeanne
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fanuzzir
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams & Weddings



Choisya wrote:
You asked us elsewhere what contemporary relevance the novel had today and I found the wedding scene to be very contemporary. Not only immigrants, but many quite poor working class people, still spend thousands of pounds/dollars on their wedding instead of using the money to improve their lives or 'saving it for a rainy day'. (I have neighbours living in a small council house with two young children, who this year spent £14000 ($28000?) on a wedding in Barbados which they would have been better spending (IMHO) on a deposit to buy a larger house.) I never have been able to understand this tradition and told my four children that I would not spend money on extravagant weddings but would give them money towards setting up their first home. It is even worse to have this sort of extravagance when marriages often break down after a few years - at least the Jurgis' and Onas would be more likely to have the rest of their lives to pay off their debts!

I also deplore the modern trend (does it exist over there?) of aping the upper classes by hiring stately homes, top hats and tails, horses and carriages etc etc for weddings. Sorry if I offend anyone here who has done this but it is a bete noir of mine.

I felt that the extravagant and chaotic wedding described by Sinclair set the scene for the downward spiral I feel will take place in the rest of the novel. It depressed me:smileysad:




fanuzzir wrote:
The first several chapters of the novel lay out all the great rituals of Americanization that immigrants were supposed to look forward to: getting a job, buying a home, starting a family. In the beginning is also a wonderful wedding that seems to bring all the customs of the Old country intact into the United States.

It's typical of novels of this period to make happiness and personal dreams part of a larger economic drama, but this portrayal has has a special poignancy. Enjoy getting to know these characters in their working and domestic lives.








This is a very canny observation. Convention and all its expenses weigh heaviest on the newcomers, who are eager to show they belong. That's why the wedding is such a great way to start the novel--it shows the immigrant class at its most vulnerable.
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fanuzzir
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams & Weddings



BenKitchen wrote:
I hate weddings lol. Thats all I am gona say to spare you the negativity. I have come to the point that when I get married I am just going to elope. The first chapter however is my favorit chapter in the book, I think it is the best written.




I agree. It actually "shows" instead of "tells," if you've run into that distinction before.
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fanuzzir
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams & Weddings

BenKitchen did us the honor of sharing a letter from his Aunt Jeanne, a retired factor worker:

What I do remember may surprise you. I thought the steel mill was beautiful. At certain times of the day there was color in the sky like a sunset, but it was coming from the mill. And the structure of the mill fascinated me, with the interplay of the horizontal and vertical. A few years ago I discovered that a major photographer, Edward Weston, took pictures of Armco in the early 1920s, when he went to Middletown to visit his sister, who happened to live there. He appreciated its beauty, too. If I can figure out a way to send you some of those images, I'll do so.


This is so counter-intuitive but I can see what she's saying. It's not just that I've taken pictures of smokestacks for aesthetic value. I've been so absorbed in my workplace that I cherish every little detail. Sinclair, by the way, wanted workers only to cherish each other, not the workplace.
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fanuzzir
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams



PaulK wrote:
The opening chapter on the wedding was great. It certainly portrayed the difficulties the family faced but it also showed some optimism or at least a hope that things could get better by the strength of the love of Jurgis for Ona and the toughness of Marija. However the next 5 chapters methodically take away most hope and are very depressing. I hope the book does not continue with the non-stop painting of a very bleak picture although I fear it does. I thought Dickens had some bleak stories but at least he had some comic characters to lighten the mood. Sinclair is certainly not subtle in making his points about the working conditions and corruption.




I am going to be honest and tell you in advance that I cannot remember a joke in this book, or a character as wonderful as McCawber. Dickens, he's not.
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams

no spoiler dont worry

I finnished the book. I have decided it was worth reading because of how well it was written. I will tell you a few things to keep in mind at the end of the book, anytime there is a speach, skip it because its long and pointless and is several pages of nothing. Also the last two chapters are now worth reading. It is all politics and is boring and not worth it. After you find out what happens to jargus and his family just stop reading. Dont was your time reading Sinclar's views on socialism. They don't really amount to anything and I think they will ruin the book for you. Try to get through chapter 16. I know its hard but it gets easyier to read.
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BenKitchen
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams

no spoiler
After you read the book let me know if you think that sinclar isn't that smart when it comes to politics. I don't care what your views are the chapters on politics didn't seem very integent. That might be because it was a different time period thought.

I really want to be a vegan now based on the first chapters, however I have tried before and it never works, but people that it works for I know thier colesteral lowers a lot.
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vivico1
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams/Read all you can


BenKitchen wrote:
no spoiler dont worry

I finnished the book. I have decided it was worth reading because of how well it was written. I will tell you a few things to keep in mind at the end of the book, anytime there is a speach, skip it because its long and pointless and is several pages of nothing. Also the last two chapters are now worth reading. It is all politics and is boring and not worth it. After you find out what happens to jargus and his family just stop reading. Dont was your time reading Sinclar's views on socialism. They don't really amount to anything and I think they will ruin the book for you. Try to get through chapter 16. I know its hard but it gets easyier to read.


Ben?
I am way behind a lot of you, still in chapter 1, the class just starts today and I have had a lot to do. But, in a book club discussion...for someone who has just finished it, or for anyone who has read it before...dont you think its going a bit beyond discussion to tell people, skip the speeches, they are boring, this chapter was bad, dont read the last two etc??? The thing about books is, that we all take from them something a bit different and how do we get a total feel for a book, in a book club, if we dont read it all? I can see saying at the end when we all get to discuss what we felt about the book, well i hated this part or that part, but this is awefully early for a critique of the book. Its like movie reviews, I will read them, to see what a movie is about if i have never heard of it before, but i rarely go by their advice if they think it is bad. I just decide on my own based on the subject matter and have very often been very glad I didnt miss a film because of what a critic said. I understand your point, but I do think its something to share when the last chapters are posted and we are asked about the entire book. I would say to anyone, you are in the bookclub class of Sinclair's The Jungle, its a serious book, lets all read it together and discuss as we go and when we are done share our feelings on the book. I mean, rather than skip those chapters and speeches you suggest, since this is a place of discussion, wouldnt you rather that we all read them too and then see if we got the same feeling you did? Or what we thought about them that made them more alive for us? Its going to take awhile to catch up with some of you and I know I am not the only one, some may still be just getting their book, so you may have to wait some to get the opinions on things you may be excited at this point to talk about but hang in there with us and, this is just from me ok, never suggest for people what in a book NOT to read. Books are bound papers of discovery , even if its a comedy. Let everyone discover what they can from the full book. :smileyhappy:
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Choisya
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams

[ Edited ]

Message Edited by Choisya on 01-22-200706:52 PM

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Choisya
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams

[ Edited ]

Message Edited by Choisya on 01-22-200706:52 PM

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Choisya
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams & Weddings

I agree Ben. My parents eloped on a tandem bicycle! (I wasn't as brave and just had a simple registry office wedding - both times:smileyhappy:.)



fanuzzir wrote:


BenKitchen wrote:
I hate weddings lol. Thats all I am gona say to spare you the negativity. I have come to the point that when I get married I am just going to elope. The first chapter however is my favorit chapter in the book, I think it is the best written.




I agree. It actually "shows" instead of "tells," if you've run into that distinction before.


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vivico1
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams & Weddings Spoiler on Chapter 1

This was a very interesting way to open a story, with the wedding feast. Someone said this was a happier chapter then goes down hill from there. I find it an introduction of things to come and a great commentary on weddings in general and the part of foreign born dreams, i will talk about what more under chapter 2. I found two interesting things happening here in chapter one, aside from introducing us to some of the characters and describing vividly the feast scene. There does seem to be the excitement of such a feast, the kind you hope it will be and Marija almost overworks it trying to keep it all going well lol. I think people of all different societies tend to overdo,monetarily, on special occasions, but we seem to want them to be SO special. If you can afford it, go for it, hopefully it is your only one. This feast, not only being a traditional way of gaining funds for the newlyweds in the old country also gives you a wonderful view or taste of what the happy party might have been like in the old country, or what they would have liked it to be, here in the new. Unfortunately, like some things done even today, you have spoilers, who come, partake of all the food and drink and give nothing back and run out. They are not here to help a couple or celebrate the couples new life. They are here to just take. That happens today too. Ever been to any church potluck dinner for something specific, and find men (sorry guys but it is mostly men) who you dont know, havent seen before, eating all the food, taking some with them and leaving nothing? And I dont mean the poor looking for any way to eat,more the middleclass that see this as a way to get one over on what they see as a freebie, regardless the consequence. On the other hand, you see two people given as examples of those humble people, who have the least and give the most. That is often true today too. You see the mood changing as the night goes on and the alcohol takes over tho. The air is thick with a more somberness, what was a party for the moment turns to what the day will bring tomorrow. In this way, this one scene sets up the book to come I think, what was the American dream to begin with for the immigrants, becomes the gnawing of the reality that comes with the morning after the dream.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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vivico1
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams/spoiler chapter 2


fanuzzir wrote:


PaulK wrote:
The opening chapter on the wedding was great. It certainly portrayed the difficulties the family faced but it also showed some optimism or at least a hope that things could get better by the strength of the love of Jurgis for Ona and the toughness of Marija. However the next 5 chapters methodically take away most hope and are very depressing. I hope the book does not continue with the non-stop painting of a very bleak picture although I fear it does. I thought Dickens had some bleak stories but at least he had some comic characters to lighten the mood. Sinclair is certainly not subtle in making his points about the working conditions and corruption.




I am going to be honest and tell you in advance that I cannot remember a joke in this book, or a character as wonderful as McCawber. Dickens, he's not.


Vivico writes:
Chapter 2 I find a great chapter. Here you have this wonderful story of Jurgis and his quest for Ona and what he went through to get her. Then you have this small group of people getting together, getting their funds for America, where they have heard of someone making it rich in the stockyards (tho he is not a stockyard man). The problem then becomes a most common one...a foreigner, to any country maybe, hears what can be made there in a day, compares that to what they make at home BUT also what it would BUY at home and think, this is truly the promise land! They dont, or have no way, of figuring that the cost of living may be higher too. Immediately,you feel sorry for Jurgis, when his thoughts are those of, no officials taking your money, no one bullying you for what you have and you think of what immigrants,especially of this time period, will go through when they get here. They find this out and are soon afraid of police and avoid them. Except the one time,then they are amazed that NOTHING was taken from them. As they roam this huge city and find where they need to go and what they are stuck with and the deploreable conditions there with so little money left, you can feel what tremendous fear and anxiety this must have brought, not only to a very young bride, but to a man who wants to be her hero and is faced with what must have looked and smelled like hell. But Jurgis has hopes, or tries to alleviate Ona's fears anyway. This book may be depressing guys, and get more so, but you know, it really moves the spirit. Life is not all disney, and tragedy should not be read for shock value or entertainment alone, but it is most certainly already a very interesting book.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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fanuzzir
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams & Weddings Spoiler on Chapter 1

Viv, you are so smart to see the "mania" of Marija here--she's the straw that stirs the drink in any other setting. You can imagine her in small East European town holding court and acting as the "mayor." Here she's a little over the top. More to come on this.
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ROSIE
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Re: Chapters 1-6: Foreign-born American dreams/Read all you can

VIVICO

AGREED. AM JUST STARTING TO DEAL WITH THIS FORMAT THAT REPLACES THE FORMER THAT I FOUND EASIER TO USE
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