What is Sinclair's final answer to life in Packingtown and how does this attitude reflect both Gilded Age Progressive periods?
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The Jungle, alludes to the idea that in an environment such as Packingtown, certain members of society will survive while other weaker members will not. Sinclair also uses metaphors of nature, such as how winter's cold kills those trees which cannot find light, to describe the process through which economic and societal forces push the weaker members of Packingtown into sickness and death. Throughout the novel, Sinclair describes this process pejoratively.
Sinclair describes the plight of the immigrant working class in Packingtown as that of wage slavery. Sinclair writes that the immigrant population was "dependent for its opportunities of life upon the whim of men every bit as brutal and unscrupulous as the old-time slave drivers." Immigrants had no real ability to break out of the economic cycles that kept them figuratively chained to their jobs.
This cycle of poverty and slavery was perpetrated by the capitalist owners of the packing plants and the corrupt politicians of local government. These capitalists would purposefully keep wages low and keep the people in poverty. Those without jobs would then be desperate for any work, and because the immigrant populations kept growing, the demand for work kept wages even lower. On the other side, politicians and local businessmen conspired to take the wages away from these immigrants through scams and poor quality products. An immigrant was thus a slave to the economic conditions that he could not control.