How is it similar to acheiving the American Dream? What do they want to do in America? Thanks
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Early in Chapter Two, Sinclair strikes a balance between portraying the difficulties of the immigrants’ move to America and the difficulties of life in Lithuania. Life in Lithuania is difficult, though it will not be as difficult as life in America, as the family will find out. Sinclair works here, however, not to idealize Eastern European life and to allow room for the validity of the American Dream. The American Dream, generally defined, is the belief in the ability of the individual to gain a sense of agency and economic or social advancement for themselves in American culture. Sinclair will use the contrast between dream and reality throughout the novel. In this early chapter, the dream is idealized.
This power of this dream is evident in the family’s trek to America. They immediately meet difficult circumstances. Their money is stolen, and they are extorted by being held captive. In addition, they find that while wages are higher in America, prices are also higher, which partly extinguishes a hope for riches, but the dream remains alive through the story of Jonas’s friend in Chicago who has made a fortune.
The dream is still alive when the family reaches Packingtown. Packingtown is a neighborhood in Chicago and the main setting for the novel. Packingtown contained the country’s largest meat producing industries and was a destination for millions of immigrants looking for work in the early twentieth century. Packingtown remained a leading meat-producing neighborhood until the 1970’s. While Packingtown was originally home to many German and Irish immigrant, many of them skilled butchers and meat producers, these groups were eventually replaced by cheaper labor, in the form of millions of unskilled Eastern European immigrants that flooded the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Because of the influx of such large populations, Packingtown became a slum filled with trash, disease, and poor living conditions.