The Jungle

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Packingtown Symbol Analysis

Packingtown Symbol Icon
The squalor, hostility, and misery of Packingtown epitomizes the corruption, alienation, and poverty that Sinclair sees as consequences of runaway capitalism.

Packingtown Quotes in The Jungle

The The Jungle quotes below all refer to the symbol of Packingtown. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Jungle published in 2001.
Chapter 2 Quotes

All the sordid suggestions of the place were gone—in the twilight it was a vision of power.

Related Symbols: Packingtown
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Ona and Jurgis survey their new neighborhood, "Packingtown," which is near a big meatpacking plant, a staple of American industry at the time. Ona and Jurgis have had plenty of hardship so far, but they maintain their optimistic spirit: they believe that America will allow them to find good jobs and thrive. As they look at the meatpacking plant, they don't think about its horrible smell or ugly appearance--all they can think about is prosperity and power. Sinclair also shows how the dim light of evening erases all the "sordid suggestions" of the place, making it seem more appealing--perhaps a metaphor for how the obscuring of the realities of the meat industry and immigrant life allowed most Americans to live in blissful ignorance of atrocities.

From the reader's perspective, it's pretty clear that the meatpacking plant won't bring its workers prosperity of any kind; it'll just chew them up and spit them out for profit. The passage uses dramatic irony--an asymmetry between what the readers know and what the characters know--to create suspense and tragedy.

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Packingtown Symbol Timeline in The Jungle

The timeline below shows where the symbol Packingtown appears in The Jungle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Theme Icon
...trolley car that takes them to the stockyards. As they leave the city and approach Packingtown—the location of the stockyards on the outskirts of town—they are confronted by a strange and... (full context)
Chapter 4
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
...it is nearly impossible for a man of his age to find a job in Packingtown. (full context)
Chapter 5
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Theme Icon
...of his wages. Jurgis asks his friend Tamoszius Kuszleika about this, and Tamoszius explains that Packingtown is full of this kind of graft, with each person trying to exploit the person... (full context)
Chapter 7
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The children are not well. All the food and medicine available in Packingtown has been doctored with chemicals and dyes. It is impossible to find warm, quality clothing... (full context)
Chapter 8
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...down due to lack of demand and Marija is put out of work. She scours Packingtown and beyond for jobs, but is unable to find one. (full context)
Chapter 9
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...He learns about Mike Scully, an Irish Democrat who owns the dump and brickyard in Packingtown and who leads the "War Whoop League," a clubhouse full of supporters and policemen. Jurgis... (full context)
Chapter 10
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
...on, she suffers from "womb trouble," headaches and pains that are common among women in Packingtown. (full context)
Chapter 25
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...of dollars for himself. He indulges in a tremendous drinking bender while the rest of Packingtown celebrates the election results, sardonically described by the narrator as the "crushing defeat of an... (full context)
Chapter 26
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Theme Icon
Labor Rights and Socialism Theme Icon
...influx of new scabs from across the country heightens the tension of the strike, and Packingtown becomes still more violent, debauched, and squalid. (full context)
Chapter 30
Labor Rights and Socialism Theme Icon
Jurgis even returns to Packingtown to distribute the papers, undoing the political work he had done there for Mike Scully... (full context)