The Jungle and Figurative Language

Throughout history, there have been books that shocked the world and turned many ideals upside down. Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel, The Jungle, was one of these cases. It sent a shiver down typical Americans’ spines when the author described the horrendous working and living conditions of the factory workers of that time. The story follows a group of twelve, immigrating from Lithuania, and their experiences in Industrial Revolution era Chicago with a primary focus on Jurgis. The book rather quickly reveals the falsehood of the promises the United States gave to all who crossed Lady Liberty, saying one can start from the bottom, then make millions through hard work. How the country once called the greatest in the world, shattered thousands, perhaps millions, of souls. Though the group starts off as happy to be in a big city where jobs were supposedly plentiful; by the end of the book, the majority of the group is dead, with the remaining few broke, basically on the streets. Their spirit is shattered and left to rot like so many before them. While the book did not bring much change to the conditions workers labored in til several decades after it was published, but it still had an impact on Americans through the language of the book. Figurative language was used extensively throughout the book and played a big role in conjuring up images of the conditions the characters were in. In the book The Jungle, the author, Upton Sinclair, uses figurative language to convey his image of atrocious conditions, both weather wise and the way workers were treated.

With the use of the figurative language technique personification, Sinclair is able to describe just how terrible the weather conditions were for workers. The cold of winter was the main type of weather Sinclair personified, describing how the family, “would have some frightful experiences with the cold” (Chapter 7), foreshadowing as well that the cold was not done tormenting the family. A way the author makes the cold seem malevolent is making it sound like a creeping, haunting figure. This can be seen in Chapter 7 when Sinclair describes the cold as something the family, “could feel…as it crept in through the cracks, reaching out from them with its icy, death-dealing fingers”. The character’s reactions to the cold are also a driving way of making the weather seem like a monster. Stanislovas, one of the character’s, Teta Elzbieta, sons, feared the cold greatly. Sinclair describes how the young boy, “conceived a terror of the cold that was almost a mania” (Chapter 7). By personifying the cold, the reader begins to think of the weather as an autonomous being that only wishes to do bad to those around it and to stop the characters from getting to work, their only source of income. Sinclair also uses several forms of figurative language to describe the work environment the characters are in. Imagery is used to encompass the book, making the environment the character’s suffer in like a giant slaughterhouse. Chapter 3 describes the process of how hogs in the local slaughterhouse are made into pork, “…the stream of animal was continuous; it was quite uncanny to watch them, pressing on to their fate, all unsuspicious a very river of death…the hogs went up (the chutes) by the power of their own legs, and then their weight carried them back through all the processes necessary to make them into pork”. This can be greatly alluded to the cycle many workers went through in this era. Many come to big cities to find better paying work, not knowing the consequences ahead of them. The hogs going up the chute with their own power can be compared to people coming to the factories in the cities of their own freewill, again, not knowing that they will be chewed up and spit out, only to have people similar to them take their place, creating an endless cycle. The way the slaughterhouse uses every single part of a hog, “no tiniest particle of organic matter was wasted” (Chapter 3) also alludes to how the workforce uses every part of the worker, not leaving any spot of the worker untouched or unused. By comparing the rather questionable techniques the slaughterhouse in the book uses to the conditions people are treated in. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair uses quite a bit figurative language to get his point across that workers all over the United States suffered from the weather conditions and how the workers were treated. Sinclair personifies the cold to make it seem like a monster that chased the characters down, showing no mercy to anyone. He also greatly uses allusion to make the way workers are treated seem like the process the slaughterhouse uses on its hogs. With the use of figurative language, the reader can get some incline of the horrific conditions work in. The book continues to send shivers down readers’ spines despite it being over a hundred years old, reminding us of the sins our country committed to those who only wished for a better life.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair uses quite a bit figurative language to get his point across that workers all over the United States suffered from the weather conditions and how the workers were treated. Sinclair personifies the cold to make it seem like a monster that chased the characters down, showing no mercy to anyone. He also greatly uses allusion to make the way workers are treated seem like the process the slaughterhouse uses on its hogs. With the use of figurative language, the reader can get some incline of the horrific conditions work in. The book continues to send shivers down readers’ spines despite it being over a hundred years old, reminding us of the sins our country committed to those who only wished for a better life.

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