The Jungle is as an exposé of the horrific working conditions and unsanitary conditions in Chicago's meatpacking industry. Sinclair's grotesque descriptions of conditions and procedures in the meatpacking plant led to subsequent reforms in food safety regulation. From the killing beds to the fertilizer plant, the meatpacking plant is portrayed as a Hell on Earth, a place of blistering cold and burning heat, a place where a man might fall unnoticed into a boiling vat and be turned into canned food. Sinclair uses grotesque descriptions of food and diseased meat to reveal the disregard company owners have for the safety of American citizens. He also portrays the grotesque physical harm done to workers, who lose fingers, cut themselves and get blood poisoning, have their skin eroded by acid, and lose limbs under highly dangerous working conditions. Sinclair uses the industrialized brutality towards animals in the meatpacking plant as a symbol of the industrialized brutality towards workers. Like the animals, workers are "processed" for every last bit of energy and then discarded when they are no longer useful.
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry ThemeTracker
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Quotes in The Jungle
With one member trimming beef in a cannery, and another working in a sausage factory, the family had a first-hand knowledge of the great majority of Packingtown swindles. For it was the custom, as they found, whenever meat was so spoiled that it could not be used for anything else, either to can it or else to chop it up into sausage. With what had been told them by Jonas, who had worked in the pickle rooms, they could now study the whole of the spoiled-meat industry on the inside, and read a new and grim meaning into that old Packingtown jest—that they use everything of the pig except the squeal.
It was all—it was their plot—Miss Henderson's plot. She hated me. And [Phil Connor]—he wanted me. He used to speak to me—out on the platform. Then he began to—to make love to me. He offered me money. He begged me—he said he loved me. Then he threatened me. He knew all about us, he knew we would starve. He knew your boss—he knew Marija's. He would hound us to death, he said—then he said if I would—if I —we would all of us be sure of work—always. Then one day he caught hold of me—he would not let go—he—he—
They put him in a place where the snow could not beat in, where the cold could not eat through his bones; they brought him food and drink—why, in the name of heaven, if they must punish him, did they not put his family in jail and leave him outside—why could they find no better way to punish him than to leave three weak women and six helpless children to starve and freeze? That was their law, that was their justice!
Out in the saloons the men could tell him all about the meaning of it; they gazed at him with pitying eyes—poor devil, he was blacklisted!...He was condemned and sentenced, without trial and without appeal; he could never work for the packers again—he could not even clean cattle pens or drive a truck in any place where they controlled.