In the Jungle
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The main theme of The Jungle is the evil of capitalism. Every event, especially in the first twenty-seven chapters of the book, is chosen deliberately to portray a particular failure of capitalism, which is, in Sinclair’s view, inhuman, destructive, unjust, brutal, and violent. The slow annihilation of Jurgis’s immigrant family at the hands of a cruel and prejudiced economic and social system demonstrates the effect of capitalism on the working class as a whole. As the immigrants, who initially possess an idealistic faith in the American Dream of hard work leading to material success, are slowly used up, tortured, and destroyed, the novel relentlessly illustrates that capitalism is to blame for their plight and emphasizes that the characters’ individual stories are the stories of millions of people. The Jungle is not a thematically nuanced or complicated novel: capitalism is simply portrayed as a total evil, from its greedy destruction of children to its cynical willingness to sell diseased meat to an unsuspecting public. Sinclair opts not to explore the psychology of capitalism; instead, he simply presents a long litany of the ugly effects of capitalism on the world.