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fanuzzir
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Chapters 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment

Things fall apart for Jurgis's family in these chapters, as the immigrant dreams of the first several chapters die a horrible death. And yet in the midst of this misery is enliightenment and possibly even liberation: "Jurgis could see all the truth now--could see himself, through the whole course of events . . ." So actually these are the most hopeful of all chapters. At least according to Sinclair.
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vivico1
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Re: Chapters 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment

Interesting idea that these chapters are the most hopeful of them all. Its hard to find hope after chapter one anywhere in his book lol. (I posted some thoughts on 16-20 elsewhere, so speak mostly of 20-22 here.)

What you said Fanuzzir, on another thread, must be why:
"The break-up of the family unit shows that Sinclair is not just derisive of industry but in some sense suspicious of the family itself--he takes him on a journey of liberation THAT DOES NOT INVOLVE THE FAMILY. Full human potential lies beyond family duty and responsibility, he is arguing; those things keep workers chained to their exploitive jobs."

Actually after the death at the end of chapter 21 of Antanas, even I had the feeling of "I give up!" and "let me out of here, just leave me alone".

I do see how he could feel some freedom in these chapters after all he has gone through and lost and the tremendous burden of responsibility he bore throughout. To not be responsible for anyone but yourself and TO no one but yourself, has got to be some release.

The images of the open country vs the filthy inner city, is a breath of air , even for the reader. What I find interesting is, that for the most part, the farmers were not unsympathetic to Jurgis and things were better for them but at the same time, farmers have never had an easy life, even now. For this reason, Jurgis' response to some of them, shows how his "enlightenment" is still one of such anger and depression,is tainting all he hears. They do offer him food and a warm place to sleep at times, and yes maybe for some small amount of money but these are farmers too and have to be careful. Their income is based on something seasonal too. They offer him jobs and a place to stay,but when he asks if its just for the summer, what about winter and they tell him, there is no work in the winter so no work, he sees them as being as bad as the place he left! This is an overreaction. How ironic, he is traveling and OFFERED work, when before he could not beg any anywhere and he declines it because its seasonal. ITS SOMETHING! And the farmers were up front with him that this is seasonal work, they dont use him up and then tell him to hit the road, but he can not see this in his anger. He can not see the difference.

You know what i see as hope for someone here, that Sinclair may have seen in the freedom of no family and only oneself to answer to, is with different eyes, Jurgis may have seen the hope for something better outside the city itself. Sinclairs vivid description of the country and the sunshine and warm days and soft grass, the waters clean and pure, are all in stark contrast to the city. I see it too as the difference between the plight of the millions jammed into the inner cities versus the possibilities when labor is more widely dispersed throughout a nation or even state.

All throughout the first of the book, I had wondered why Jurgis and maybe Stanislovas, did not go out to the country to work in the summer, while the women worked in the city, keeping the house and then coming back in the winter, healthier and with what he himself said at one part, could have been enough money to help them all through the winter months in the city. But, had he done this and at least made out, I guess it would have taken away from the brutality of system Sinclair was hoping to change and needed to change. It would have given the readers ,those who could do anything about the workers plight, an "out" for thinking constantly on the subject as they read.

Sinclair's chapters that he sees as the most hopeful,are really just a respite for Jurgis, AND the reader, from things to come. Even in this respite tho, he can not escape his sadness of his family lost.
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 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment (Possible Spoiler)

I was surprised by these chapters wherein Jurgis finds hope and work in the countryside because during the 1920s there was an agricultural depression in the US and I wondered why Sinclair showed the country in such a favourable light at this time, although one farmer did refuse to sell Jurgis food. Perhaps it was a deliberate lapse into romanticism on his part to further the novel. Sinclair could not have been unaware of the plight of agricultural workers at this time. In 1919 California outlawed some trade unions and scores of striking agricultural workers were sacked. (In 1934, during the subsequent Great Depression, Sinclair won the Democratic nomination to become Governor of California but was defeated after a prolonged vituperative Republican campaign against him.)

(POSSIBLE SPOILER) However, I think these chapters, with Jurgis living the life of a 'hobo', indicate not only a change from city to country but a change in Jurgis' attitude to life and work. Following his breakdown at seeing a mother bathe her baby, he suffers a catharsis, which, in line with a Greek tragedy, cleanses him and the readers of the negative emotions aroused by the tragedies portrayed earlier in the book peripateia). He also sees that despite the beautiful countryside he travels through that the agricultural worker is also exploited, that animals there are also badly treated and that bands of prostitutes follow the migrant workers anagnorisis. It is the beginning of a more positive time foreshadowing his involvement in political activism amongst new friends.

This part of the book also reminded me of 'The Autobiography of a Super Tramp' by W H Davies, a Welsh poet, who 'hoboed' across the US and Canada in the 1890s. I wonder if Sinclair was inspired by this book to write the chapters of Jurgis' hoboing life? W H Davies poetry is very good BTW. You may know the opening lines of Leisure: 'What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare' :-

http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/davies01.html





vivico1 wrote:
Interesting idea that these chapters are the most hopeful of them all. Its hard to find hope after chapter one anywhere in his book lol. (I posted some thoughts on 16-20 elsewhere, so speak mostly of 20-22 here.)

What you said Fanuzzir, on another thread, must be why:
"The break-up of the family unit shows that Sinclair is not just derisive of industry but in some sense suspicious of the family itself--he takes him on a journey of liberation THAT DOES NOT INVOLVE THE FAMILY. Full human potential lies beyond family duty and responsibility, he is arguing; those things keep workers chained to their exploitive jobs."

Actually after the death at the end of chapter 21 of Antanas, even I had the feeling of "I give up!" and "let me out of here, just leave me alone".

I do see how he could feel some freedom in these chapters after all he has gone through and lost and the tremendous burden of responsibility he bore throughout. To not be responsible for anyone but yourself and TO no one but yourself, has got to be some release.

The images of the open country vs the filthy inner city, is a breath of air , even for the reader. What I find interesting is, that for the most part, the farmers were not unsympathetic to Jurgis and things were better for them but at the same time, farmers have never had an easy life, even now. For this reason, Jurgis' response to some of them, shows how his "enlightenment" is still one of such anger and depression,is tainting all he hears. They do offer him food and a warm place to sleep at times, and yes maybe for some small amount of money but these are farmers too and have to be careful. Their income is based on something seasonal too. They offer him jobs and a place to stay,but when he asks if its just for the summer, what about winter and they tell him, there is no work in the winter so no work, he sees them as being as bad as the place he left! This is an overreaction. How ironic, he is traveling and OFFERED work, when before he could not beg any anywhere and he declines it because its seasonal. ITS SOMETHING! And the farmers were up front with him that this is seasonal work, they dont use him up and then tell him to hit the road, but he can not see this in his anger. He can not see the difference.

You know what i see as hope for someone here, that Sinclair may have seen in the freedom of no family and only oneself to answer to, is with different eyes, Jurgis may have seen the hope for something better outside the city itself. Sinclairs vivid description of the country and the sunshine and warm days and soft grass, the waters clean and pure, are all in stark contrast to the city. I see it too as the difference between the plight of the millions jammed into the inner cities versus the possibilities when labor is more widely dispersed throughout a nation or even state.

All throughout the first of the book, I had wondered why Jurgis and maybe Stanislovas, did not go out to the country to work in the summer, while the women worked in the city, keeping the house and then coming back in the winter, healthier and with what he himself said at one part, could have been enough money to help them all through the winter months in the city. But, had he done this and at least made out, I guess it would have taken away from the brutality of system Sinclair was hoping to change and needed to change. It would have given the readers ,those who could do anything about the workers plight, an "out" for thinking constantly on the subject as they read.

Sinclair's chapters that he sees as the most hopeful,are really just a respite for Jurgis, AND the reader, from things to come. Even in this respite tho, he can not escape his sadness of his family lost.

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fanuzzir
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Re: Chapters 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment

Viv writes:

I do see how he could feel some freedom in these chapters after all he has gone through and lost and the tremendous burden of responsibility he bore throughout. To not be responsible for anyone but yourself and TO no one but yourself, has got to be some release.


Anyone agree? Or do you feel the loss of the nuclear family, however tenuous, and the nine to five routine of the working man?
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fanuzzir
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Re: Chapters 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment (Possible Spoiler)

Both Vivico and Choisya point out the almost "romantic" picture of the hobo life in these chapters--odd how it doesn't sound like "homeless," or "unemployed." Why did hoboing have this special name, this special appeal throughout the early to mid-twentieth century? Growing up in the sixties, I still remember wanting to meet a real live hobo on a slow moving freight train . . .
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Re: Chapters 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment (Possible Spoiler)


fanuzzir wrote:
Both Vivico and Choisya point out the almost "romantic" picture of the hobo life in these chapters--odd how it doesn't sound like "homeless," or "unemployed." Why did hoboing have this special name, this special appeal throughout the early to mid-twentieth century? Growing up in the sixties, I still remember wanting to meet a real live hobo on a slow moving freight train . . .


I think maybe because during those years when we were innundated with the homeless and the unemployed, using the term hobos and romanticising their "free" live on the rails was a HECK of a lot easier to do, not worry about them but see them as something special, rather than deal with the reality of WHY they were hobos, dont you? Labels have a way of insulating us from things, including responsibilities. They also have a way of continuing the ugly way many others are treated, be it unemployed or nationalities. We compartamentalize things in a way we can handle with the labels we give them.
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 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment (Possible Spoiler)

There appears to be no agreement as to the origin of the word 'hobo':-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobo

However, it was not just an American phenonemon - in the UK we had a plethora of 'tramps' as we call them, wandering the countryside after WWI and even after the Napoleonic wars. It is possible that the convention arose because there was no provision made for returning soldiers whose jobs had been taken, and none for the disabled, so their only recourse was to beg. It was perhaps because these people were so often war veterans that people were sympathetic towards them. In the Great Depression, of course, there were far too many and the public became more resistant to their 'charms'. It does look romantic but many of them were filthy and louse ridden and took to alcohol for warmth, as does Jurgis.

The fitter ones, like Jurgis, walked, begged and worked when they could. I can remember seeing tramps on the country roads around my grandmother's house when I was very little, just before the war but most of them disappeared when war was declared because work became available for them. Some ragged old men remained and my grandmother had several 'favourites' who came to her door from time to time for a good bowl of soup and an odd job or two.

We are often appalled by the large number of beggars in places like India, especially the professional ones, but it is not so long ago that our countries had no welfare 'safety net' for such people and such sights were common after wars and during depressions in the economy. The welfare provisions in Europe are quite generous so nowadays we tend to have only drug addicts and alcoholics, who are difficult to rehabilitate, on the streets. We set up large Crisis Centres for them around Xmas where they can obtain food, new clothes, medical assistance etc etc. I do not know the situation in the US and whether you have adequate provision for the less able in society, who are always with us.




vivico1 wrote:

fanuzzir wrote:
Both Vivico and Choisya point out the almost "romantic" picture of the hobo life in these chapters--odd how it doesn't sound like "homeless," or "unemployed." Why did hoboing have this special name, this special appeal throughout the early to mid-twentieth century? Growing up in the sixties, I still remember wanting to meet a real live hobo on a slow moving freight train . . .


I think maybe because during those years when we were innundated with the homeless and the unemployed, using the term hobos and romanticising their "free" live on the rails was a HECK of a lot easier to do, not worry about them but see them as something special, rather than deal with the reality of WHY they were hobos, dont you? Labels have a way of insulating us from things, including responsibilities. They also have a way of continuing the ugly way many others are treated, be it unemployed or nationalities. We compartamentalize things in a way we can handle with the labels we give them.


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Re: Chapters 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment

I am jumping back in after being tied up for awhile. I have finished chapter 22 and this is far and away the most depressing book I have ever read. While chapters 20 and 21 started to have some hope when Jurgis got new jobs and we actually found a good person in the form of the rich woman who helped out Jurgis, the hope was snuffed out first by the sudden closer of the plant and then by the death of his son. I almost gave up on the book. However the book raises many interesting questions. First I found it interesting that Sinclair wanted people to feel for the immigrant family and there fate but the biggest reaction was apparently anger about the state of the food industry. Frankly I think that is a reasonable response to the book from the initial readers. You can put aside feelings for the family since it does not affect your life but when you realize your Christmas dinner may be full of tainted food you would be very upset. Can you imagine if you found out that your food today was being processed as it is in The Jungle?
Sinclair wanted to show the flaws of capitalism and exposed how it hurt people's lives. To me this point is not being made. I don't see how it was capitalism that caused these spiraling problems to the family. It was many things including corruption in government but most of all it was the greed of men and their lack of feelings toward others. You can have corruption and greed in any economic or political system. I think you see that in the world today. There is great mistreating of people in many countries with varied systems. I am very interested on what Sincalir says about Socialism near the end of the book.
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Re: Chapters 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment

Paul,
Did you know that there are still parts of animals you dont want to know about in your processed meats,or that there is an acceptable amount of "foreign objects" such as hair, insects, etc per pound in the industry? And once in awhile we still hear on the news about some rat or human parts found in some food. But you are right, of course people forgot the plight of Jurgis and worried about their own food. Thats what brought about the food legislation at the time that this book did instead of the help for the workers plight he was aiming for. I think the food acts were a good thing to come from this too tho.

And your right, capitalism in and of itself is not evil, nor is democracy. There is greed in any system.

I wrote my ideas on the last part of the book and how socialism was presented in this book, so I won't repeat myself here or spoil it either since you are not finished from what you say :smileywink:. Good to see you post tho, this place has been dead for days!~! :smileyhappy:

PaulK wrote:
I am jumping back in after being tied up for awhile. I have finished chapter 22 and this is far and away the most depressing book I have ever read. While chapters 20 and 21 started to have some hope when Jurgis got new jobs and we actually found a good person in the form of the rich woman who helped out Jurgis, the hope was snuffed out first by the sudden closer of the plant and then by the death of his son. I almost gave up on the book. However the book raises many interesting questions. First I found it interesting that Sinclair wanted people to feel for the immigrant family and there fate but the biggest reaction was apparently anger about the state of the food industry. Frankly I think that is a reasonable response to the book from the initial readers. You can put aside feelings for the family since it does not affect your life but when you realize your Christmas dinner may be full of tainted food you would be very upset. Can you imagine if you found out that your food today was being processed as it is in The Jungle?
Sinclair wanted to show the flaws of capitalism and exposed how it hurt people's lives. To me this point is not being made. I don't see how it was capitalism that caused these spiraling problems to the family. It was many things including corruption in government but most of all it was the greed of men and their lack of feelings toward others. You can have corruption and greed in any economic or political system. I think you see that in the world today. There is great mistreating of people in many countries with varied systems. I am very interested on what Sincalir says about Socialism near the end of the 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 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment



PaulK wrote:
ISinclair wanted to show the flaws of capitalism and exposed how it hurt people's lives. To me this point is not being made. I don't see how it was capitalism that caused these spiraling problems to the family. It was many things including corruption in government but most of all it was the greed of men and their lack of feelings toward others. You can have corruption and greed in any economic or political system.




Paul raises an excellent point, everyone. Is capitalism really the culprit or are we talking about a weird amalgam of slum, political machine, immigrant exploitation, and factory conditions?

Let me offer two observations. To Sinclair, the villian was capitalism because the economic system he knew as capitalism was industrial--that is, organized on an assembly line with the impersonal use of human beings in repetitive, soul-killing labor. The horrors of the food processing industry are thrown in for good measure; assembly line work is the intended target here. Problem is, that's how millions of unionized American laborers got themselves cars, homes, and second homes. So does an organized working class, a proletariet, do no more assembly line labor? Tell me when you get to the end.

The other observation: To Sinclair, as for Marx, capitalism killed "natural" human bonds of family, village, society, and replaced them with cut-throat competition. No one really intentionally hurts anyone--it's all business. That's the "plausible deniability" of capitalism, according to its critics. Thanks for your thoughtful post, Paul.
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Choisya
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Re: Chapters 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment

[ Edited ]
PaulK wrote:
Sinclair wanted to show the flaws of capitalism and exposed how it hurt people's lives. To me this point is not being made. I don't see how it was capitalism that caused these spiraling problems to the family. It was many things including corruption in government but most of all it was the greed of men and their lack of feelings toward others. You can have corruption and greed in any economic or political system. I think you see that in the world today. There is great mistreating of people in many countries with varied systems. I am very interested on what Sincalir says about Socialism near the end of the book.





Thanks PaulK for an interesting post - good to see you here!

Message Edited by Choisya on 01-22-200706:13 PM

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Re: Chapters 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment/ systems vs the individual

I had a thought on something today. This was something we discussed a long time ago in school and unfortunately, I believe it will always be true of mankind everywhere. There was mention that the bad thing about capitalism is that it creates a class system. We even label them here, Upper Class (the rich), Middle Class (middle income working man) and the Lower Class (the poor). And I can't say I dont agree that capitalism promotes thats.

Here is the inherant problem that lies within un and not any one system. This is one reason why I really do believe we will never have a world wide system of "equality" of all men based on any one political system... someone ALWAYS feels they are being left out of something, whether they are or not. Someone ALWAYS wants to be a top dog, even if its to be whoever is overseeing that everyone recieves equally. It still goes back to greed and power or lack of. Its those two "ALWAYS" that got a nation to follow Hitler "against" other nations and races in an attempt to fulfill one of those ALWAYS. Because of their lots, and feelings of nothing working they need to "blame or gain".

If economically we were all equal, then people would make new classes based on their religions. If not religion, we still always have that wonderful (sarcastically said,ok) system of dividing ourselves into classes based on Race. If it weren't that, it would be something, traditions vs traditions even stuff as absurd as IQs!

Man has within him the desire or need to distinguish himself from others in some way. The individual in us seeks itself out. And it will come, whether it is in negative ways, not finding in ourselves what we want so blaming it on another "class" who has caused our problems or keeps us down, or another nation even. Or whether it simply is that inner desire to be different. You cant kill it. It is part of our humaneness. It is the one thing that bothered Danielle in the kibbutz even, that desire of the younger person to seek out her own things, to leave maybe, or in that particular kibbutz too, the desire not to be housed with other kids, but within her own family unit.

Because you can't kill that part of human nature, and its an important part because,thats where our minds that create great music, medical advances, scientific advances, come from. You can't isolate it from its opposite negative side too, described above. "In all things there is opposition, everything has its opposite."

Does this mean there is no hope? I dont think so. In the end, I would hope that in whatever nation we are in, within whichever system we lean towards and desire as ours, that we will try to be that nobler side. We all have talents, use them for good. Whether it is organizing in one country, to bring about change, or voting in another country to bring about change, the thing that needs to change is man's believe that he can make a difference. We often dont vote because we think, well my one vote wont make a difference, but if everyone believed it did, or took it as a real duty to do that one thing, then every's vote WOULD count.

So in the end, does it matter if its socialism, democracy, communism, or whatever your country believes in, as long as what we work at is being involved in the betterment of man? Thats really not going to come from any one system. Its going to come from the heart of the individual, who is not just acted upon but acts. May all our actions, be it with one another, within our community, or our nation, be good actions, meant to lift, not tear down.

I found myself being drawn into a discussion lately that caused me to feel attacked and rather than taking the higher ground, or even just not being so easily offended, I embarked with them in discussions that quite frankly showed the lesser side of both of us. That has bothered me this week, and for that I apologize. Most wont even know what this part means and thats ok, you don't need to. But it fits under this topic of being a bit more noble in our dealings with our fellow man.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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PaulK
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Re: Chapters 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment



vivico1 wrote:
Paul,
Did you know that there are still parts of animals you dont want to know about in your processed meats,or that there is an acceptable amount of "foreign objects" such as hair, insects, etc per pound in the industry? And once in awhile we still hear on the news about some rat or human parts found in some food. But you are right, of course people forgot the plight of Jurgis and worried about their own food. Thats what brought about the food legislation at the time that this book did instead of the help for the workers plight he was aiming for. I think the food acts were a good thing to come from this too tho.

And your right, capitalism in and of itself is not evil, nor is democracy. There is greed in any system.

I wrote my ideas on the last part of the book and how socialism was presented in this book, so I won't repeat myself here or spoil it either since you are not finished from what you say :smileywink:. Good to see you post tho, this place has been dead for days!~! :smileyhappy:

PaulK wrote:
I am jumping back in after being tied up for awhile. I have finished chapter 22 and this is far and away the most depressing book I have ever read. While chapters 20 and 21 started to have some hope when Jurgis got new jobs and we actually found a good person in the form of the rich woman who helped out Jurgis, the hope was snuffed out first by the sudden closer of the plant and then by the death of his son. I almost gave up on the book. However the book raises many interesting questions. First I found it interesting that Sinclair wanted people to feel for the immigrant family and there fate but the biggest reaction was apparently anger about the state of the food industry. Frankly I think that is a reasonable response to the book from the initial readers. You can put aside feelings for the family since it does not affect your life but when you realize your Christmas dinner may be full of tainted food you would be very upset. Can you imagine if you found out that your food today was being processed as it is in The Jungle?
Sinclair wanted to show the flaws of capitalism and exposed how it hurt people's lives. To me this point is not being made. I don't see how it was capitalism that caused these spiraling problems to the family. It was many things including corruption in government but most of all it was the greed of men and their lack of feelings toward others. You can have corruption and greed in any economic or political system. I think you see that in the world today. There is great mistreating of people in many countries with varied systems. I am very interested on what Sincalir says about Socialism near the end of the book.






You are, of course, right that risk still remaing in the food supply but it is nothing like the conditions that existed in The Jungle. Interesting how he how a postive influence where he did not expect it.
I will finish the book in the next few days and look forward to your comments on Socialism.
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Re: Chapters 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment

PaulK wrote:
You are, of course, right that risk still remaing in the food supply but it is nothing like the conditions that existed in The Jungle. Interesting how he how a postive influence where he did not expect it.
I will finish the book in the next few days and look forward to your comments on Socialism.
____________________________________________________________________________

YESSSS thank goodness for the food reforms his book did help bring about!! I may have a hamburger for lunch today lol :smileyhappy:
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 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment/ systems vs the individual

While I appreciate the thoroughness of these replies, let's all remember that Paul did not wonder at the legitimacy of capitalism or its principles in the abstract. He was wondering whether the novel made its case against it. So let's talk about characters and drama and Sinclair's artistic decisions; there's another thread for political theory posts.
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Choisya
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Re: The Jungle

[ Edited ]

Message Edited by Choisya on 01-22-200707:41 PM

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JesseBC
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Re: Chapters 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment

To some extent, your food still IS being processed the same way. Lynndie England (a.k.a. that cute little pixie we watched torturing Iraqis in Abu Ghraib) just gave her first press interview to the Village Voice from federal prison. She worked for a Tyson factory in West Virginia before joining the Army. She quit after reporting to her supervisors that rotting and diseased meat was being packaged right along with the edible meat. (The upshot, of course, was why she couldn't have shown the same kind of whistleblowing pluck once she got to Baghdad.)

I had a boyfriend who refused to eat canned vegetables after he spent a summer working for a cannery. The products passed inspection so long as they were below an acceptable threshhold of maggots and other debris.

Both of these happened in the 1990s.

I always knew The Jungle was the book that forced reforms in the food industry, so I had naively assumed that this theme constituted most of the book. I was appalled when I started reading it and discovered that this is actually just a small fraction of the book. I just can't fathom the kind of narcissism and self-centeredness that can accept human misery in their food as long as nothing yucky gets in there.

Sinclair is certainly an ideologue and I can understand being skeptical of that. What I don't understand is why capitalist ideologues aren't met with the same skepticism. Karl Marx gets voted one of the most dangerous men who ever lived while Milton Friedman gets eulogized as a great thinker. It's like life in the Twilight Zone.





PaulK wrote:
I am jumping back in after being tied up for awhile. I have finished chapter 22 and this is far and away the most depressing book I have ever read. While chapters 20 and 21 started to have some hope when Jurgis got new jobs and we actually found a good person in the form of the rich woman who helped out Jurgis, the hope was snuffed out first by the sudden closer of the plant and then by the death of his son. I almost gave up on the book. However the book raises many interesting questions. First I found it interesting that Sinclair wanted people to feel for the immigrant family and there fate but the biggest reaction was apparently anger about the state of the food industry. Frankly I think that is a reasonable response to the book from the initial readers. You can put aside feelings for the family since it does not affect your life but when you realize your Christmas dinner may be full of tainted food you would be very upset. Can you imagine if you found out that your food today was being processed as it is in The Jungle?
Sinclair wanted to show the flaws of capitalism and exposed how it hurt people's lives. To me this point is not being made. I don't see how it was capitalism that caused these spiraling problems to the family. It was many things including corruption in government but most of all it was the greed of men and their lack of feelings toward others. You can have corruption and greed in any economic or political system. I think you see that in the world today. There is great mistreating of people in many countries with varied systems. I am very interested on what Sincalir says about Socialism near the end of the book.


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JesseBC
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Chapters 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment

Well, sure, I think we can safely conclude that capitalism is the cause of all Jurgis' problems (if only because that's how Sinclair wrote the story).

But it doesn't logically follow that socialism is then the answer to all Jurgis' problems either. Though some of those answers -- like unions or regulation -- may be socialist in nature.





fanuzzir wrote:


PaulK wrote:
ISinclair wanted to show the flaws of capitalism and exposed how it hurt people's lives. To me this point is not being made. I don't see how it was capitalism that caused these spiraling problems to the family. It was many things including corruption in government but most of all it was the greed of men and their lack of feelings toward others. You can have corruption and greed in any economic or political system.




Paul raises an excellent point, everyone. Is capitalism really the culprit or are we talking about a weird amalgam of slum, political machine, immigrant exploitation, and factory conditions?

Let me offer two observations. To Sinclair, the villian was capitalism because the economic system he knew as capitalism was industrial--that is, organized on an assembly line with the impersonal use of human beings in repetitive, soul-killing labor. The horrors of the food processing industry are thrown in for good measure; assembly line work is the intended target here. Problem is, that's how millions of unionized American laborers got themselves cars, homes, and second homes. So does an organized working class, a proletariet, do no more assembly line labor? Tell me when you get to the end.

The other observation: To Sinclair, as for Marx, capitalism killed "natural" human bonds of family, village, society, and replaced them with cut-throat competition. No one really intentionally hurts anyone--it's all business. That's the "plausible deniability" of capitalism, according to its critics. Thanks for your thoughtful post, Paul.


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JesseBC
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Re: Chapters 16-22: Misery and Enlightenment (Possible Spoiler)

Incidentally, I didn't interpret anything about these chapters as "romantic." All I saw was an increasingly bleak portrait of utter despair.

The closest I could get to romantic might be Jurgis' homeless traipsing as a symbol of his Americanization. The ultimate American narrative being the ability of the individual to reinvent oneself by taking a journey, whether pleasant, depairing, or otherwise.





fanuzzir wrote:
Both Vivico and Choisya point out the almost "romantic" picture of the hobo life in these chapters--odd how it doesn't sound like "homeless," or "unemployed." Why did hoboing have this special name, this special appeal throughout the early to mid-twentieth century? Growing up in the sixties, I still remember wanting to meet a real live hobo on a slow moving freight train . . .


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