The Use Of Metaphors In Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle
Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel, The Jungle, describes the harsh conditions that many immigrants faced in industrialized cities within the United States. This novel essentially portrays Social Darwinism. The novel contains many metaphors that provide a deeper meaning and understand to many different scenarios. It is likely these metaphors were used to help the reader visualize the various scenarios being described, and essentially, it works. The title alone is a metaphor that is made clear throughout the novel. Additionally, two metaphors that stand out the most are the references to the seventh ocean wave crashing on a beach, and a young-boy as a defenseless tree-trunk.
The Jungle, referring to the title, does not represent a physical jungle with trees and wilderness; however, it represents the struggle of the classes, the survival of the fittest. In a wilderness environment, the strongest animals get stronger, and the weaker animals fade to die. In industrialized cities, factory owners get richer, and workers become broken. Therefore, it’s as if the immigrant workers are up against the mighty animals in the wilderness. Relating this to one’s voice and power, it is not reflected by how much one works, it is reflected by one’s financial status. In Chapter 31, “In a society dominated by the fact of commercial competition, money is necessarily the test of prowess, and wastefulness the sole criterion of power”. Therefore, the “Jungle” in the United States is the typical industrialized city – where the poor are weak and have no power.
Kotick’s son had a persistent desire to find a perfect each that was free from men. When she expressed her concern, the son said, “Give me another season… Remember, mother, it is always the seventh wave that goes the furthest up the beach”. This metaphor represents waves as they crash upon beaches – specifically which wave goes the furthest. In this scenario, the wave that travels the furthest is consider the most successful. Typically, the first wave does not traverse the most sand, neither does the second, or the third, or even the fifth. Waves typically crash in groups of seven – typically the seventh wave being the longest, or in the case, most successful. So, when the son expresses this, he is essentially proclaiming that even though his first attempts were unsuccessful, the seventh one is destined to be, and therefore, give him “another season. ”
Mowgli, a young-boy, is harshly punished by Baloo. Distraught, Bagheera confronts Baloo. He says to him, “He is no tree-trunk to sharpen thy blunt claws upon”. When associated with the wilderness, animals naturally sharpen their claws on tree-trunks. The tree-trunk does not have the option to flee, or even protest, said act; and therefore, is forced to be wore down for the betterment of the animals. This is essentially what Bagheera is proclaiming. He’s saying, Mowgli is just a boy, and to take a kinder approach when teaching, or giving lessons, to Mowgli. Personally, this strikes as, by punishing a young-boy to such a degree, makes one look weaker – not stronger.
One can easily conclude that the Jungle is not a passive read. To fully understand and comprehend Upclair’s novel, one needs to dive into the various metaphors as they heavily contribute to the purpose of the novel. While these are only three metaphors within the novel, one could easily pick out several more; however, the two inner metaphors (the waves and the tree-trunk) stood out to me the most, primarily due to the vivid imagery associated with each of them.
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