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TechnischeUniversittDresden FakulttSprach,LiteraturundKulturwissenschaften InstitutfrAmerikanistik Wintersemester2010/2011 HausarbeitimHauptseminar:


Thema: WageSlaveryinProtestFiction AComparisonofSinclairsTheJungleandHardingDavisLife intheIronMills

Vorgelegtvon:SabineBurkhardt Studiengang:LehramtGymnasium(Spanisch,Englisch,DAZ) 11.Fachsemester Datum:25.01.2011

CONTENT 1. INTRODUCTION............................................................................................................................ 2 2. PROTEST LITERATURE ........................................................................................................... 2 3. REBECCA HARDING DAVIS LIFE IN THE IRON MILLS (1861).................................. 4 3.1 REBECCA HARDING DAVIS .......................................................................................................................4 3.2 RHETORICAL STRATEGIES .........................................................................................................................4 3.2.1 The role of the narrator ....................................................................................................................... 4 3.2.2Empathy..................................................................................................................................................... 6 3.2.3ShockValue .............................................................................................................................................. 7 3.2.4 Symbolic action ....................................................................................................................................... 9 4. UPTON SINCLAIRS THE JUNGLE (1906) ..........................................................................10 4.1 UPTON SINCLAIR THE MUCKRAKER ................................................................................................ 10 4.2 RHETORICAL STRATEGIES ...................................................................................................................... 11 4.2.1 The role of the narrator .....................................................................................................................11 4.2.2 Empathy ...................................................................................................................................................11 4.2.3 Shock Value ............................................................................................................................................15 4.2.4 Symbolic action .....................................................................................................................................17 5.CONCLUSION ..................................................................................................................................18 6.WORKSCITED................................................................................................................................21

1. Introduction
The two narratives Life in the Iron Mills by Rebecca Harding Davis and The Jungle by Upton Sinclair generally have various things in common. They are both classified as realist texts, both depict the labour conditions of immigrant families through American industrialisation - although with more than forty years in between- and both of them have been perceived as forms of criticism on their particular topic. Therefore, they are often categorized as protest fiction. This paper will examine these two texts under exactly that common denominator. What makes them fiction of protest and how do the two authors engage in their subject? First, it will be dealt with the questions what protest literature actually means, what it stands for and how it works as a literary genre. The work of Zoe Trodd and her colleagues from Harvard University on the subject, were especially helpful for outlining the characteristics and distinctive features of protest literature. They argue that there are certain rhetorical strategies that can be generally detected in protest fiction. By examining how and to what extent Davis and Sinclair have employed them, these strategies will constitute the frame of the analysis. As the term protest suggests, the overall aim of this kind of fiction is to raise awareness on a certain subject. It is assumed in this paper that the narrator has an important function in that process, namely in mediating between the author and the audience. Therefore, it will be examined what kind of role the narrator plays in both narratives. Moreover, it will be looked at the two authors. What was their personal background and what kind of role do they play in the field of protest literature? And at last, it will be examined what they were actually aiming at and to what extent they succeeded.

2. Protest Literature
Narratives that are categorized as protest literature are generally dedicated to a certain illness of society. This illness, with its facets, conditions and consequences, is usually exposed and denounced through the experiences of fictional characters that are members of that particular society. In his foreword to the book, American Protest Literature, Stauffer defines the literary genre as the uses of language to transform the self and society and calls it a catalyst, guide, or mirror for social change (Trodd xii). 2

Thus, it can generally be read as a critique of the prevalent social values. By forming a story out of isolated or inchoate discontent, the respective authors also give a voice to a collective consciousness (Trodd xii). This underlines the value that these texts have for their contemporary society. While the topic is directly linked to a specific period and location, it does generally not lose its significance over time. Netzley explains this by stating that the authors of protest literature concern themselves with universal truths about the human condition (Netzley xiii). In other words, the message maintains over time and might even be applicable to todays society.Taking the abovementioned characteristics into account, it becomes obvious that protest literature wants to reach its audience in a way that goes beyond literary entertainment. It aims at making people aware, converting them or at least opening their eyes and hearts towards a certain cause. For the particular period of social tension that eventually calls for cultural renovation, Stauffer uses the term awakening. He concludes that protest literature can lead to permanent social change when the protest occurs during an awakening1 (Trodd xiv). This, again, emphasises the significance of the link between topic and time. Now the question remains how the authors of protest literature approach their topic, in order to have the most possible impact on their audience. Stauffer names three major rhetorical strategies that are characteristic for this genre. The first one is empathy, which he calls central to all humanitarian reform (Trodd xiii). By engaging the readers in a way that they understand or even feel the suffering of the characters, this strategy seems to be essential if one aims at a personal transformation of the audience. The second one, which can naturally follow from the first one, is the disgust and resentment that is provoked throughout the reading. This shock value, as Stauffer calls it, should at best foster the readers ambition to make a change. The third strategy is symbolic action, which manifests itself in the readers engagement that exceeds the actual reading process. It implies indeterminacy of meaning, rich ambiguity, and open-endedness, which goes beyond the authors intent. It invites dialogue, debate, and interpretation among readers (Trodd xiii). These strategies will be subject of analysis in the following chapters.

Since the interrelation is hardly measurable, protest literature cannot be directly seen as the generator for social change but as a catalyst (Trodd xv).

3. Rebecca Harding Davis Life in the Iron Mills (1861)

3.1 Rebecca Harding Davis
Right before the beginning of the civil war, Rebecca Harding Davis wrote a short story, in which she approached a different kind of slavery than the one that was subject to war: white wage slavery that affected immigrant workers. Moreover, the author chose Wheeling to be the setting, her hometown, which is located in Virginia, a slavery state. By taking into account that the story first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1861, the same year of the battle of Fort Sumter, Todd concludes that Davis was anticipating several aspects about protest literature that would generally not appear until after the war. She states:
Davis was anticipating the postwar reform crisis, when it seemed that the apocalypse had come and the new age was nowhere in sight. [] The story foreshadowed further changes in protest literature after the war: the shift away from religious language; the transition from romanticism to realism; the inclusion of unseemly, morally ambiguous heroes; and the production of fiction that didnt apologize for being fiction. (195)

Furthermore, the story about the exploitation of immigrant workers made her instantly gain considerable success. Then, for a long time, the story was lost to obscurity until being rediscovered by Tillie Olsen in the 1970s. She was inspired by Davis narrative and encouraged to use the misery of others for her fiction (Trodd 195). It is interesting to note however that Davis, unlike Upton Sinclair, was not aiming at a revolution. Despite her questioning the contemporary circumstances, she was sceptical towards a utopian reorganisation of life (Trodd 195).

3.2 Rhetorical strategies

3.2.1 The role of the narrator In order to analyse the role of the narrator, it is first necessary to have a closer look at the composition of the story. It consists of two narrative levels: a story which forms the frame and an embedded narrative. While a third person omniscient narrator tells the 4

latter, the former is narrated in the first person. According to Genettes concept of narratology, the narrative contains an extradiegetic level with an autodiegetic narrator and an intradiegetic level with a heterogetic narrator. Hence, the narrator takes part in the plot of the frame narrative but not in the embedded one. The first person narrator, who opens and closes the story, seems to take the reader on a tour through the industrial setting. By addressing the reader directly, they are invited to become an observer. Already in the first sentence, the reader gets involved in the plot: A cloudy day: do you know what that is in a town of iron-works (Harding Davis 45)? What follows, is a description of the polluted air in an industrial town. Hence, there is an immediate loss of distance between the reader and the narrator. Moreover, the reader is addressed directly, at times even in a slightly insulting way: What do you make of a case like that, amateur psychologist? You call it an altogether serious thing to be alive: to these men it is a drunken jest, a joke (Harding Davis 45). This suggests that the narrator addresses a certain kind of audience, namely one that is not familiar with the problems of the working class. But the narrator also appears to be from a different class because he shows himself to be familiar with the audiences perspective. The location, from which the narrator describes the setting, is an old house, where the protagonist family had lived 30 years earlier: I open the window, and, looking out, can scarcely see through the rain the grocers shop opposite, where a crowd of drunken Irishmen are puffing Lynchburg tobacco in their pipes (Harding Davis 45). Furthermore, the embedded story is narrated from that position. By placing himself at the authentic site of the story, the narrator assigns it with a certain authenticity. In other words, he implies that he is reliable. The embedded story is introduced directly: My story is very simple, - only what I remember of the life of one of these men,[] Hugh Wolfe (Harding Davis 46). Then he continues in a third person narration, though at times the first person narrator interferes: Be just: when I tell you about this night, see him as he is (Harding Davis 52). Here again, it becomes obvious that the narrator is aware of the audiences perspective and the reaction they might have. By advising them to be just, he aims at a certain engagement of the reader. All in all, one could argue that the readers engagement by the first person narrator results in a certain commitment to the story. Since the problems of immigrant steel workers must have been quite abstract to the

contemporary reader, the strategy of taking them by the hand and guiding them though the narrative appears to be well chosen.

3.2.2Empathy The most obvious strategy in provoking empathy is the engagement of the reader. By literally taking them by the hand and taking them on a tour through the polluted mill town, it is more likely for the reader to really experience the filth. Also, the vivid and very detailed descriptions contribute to that:
The idiosyncrasy of this town is smoke. It rolls suddenly from slow folds from the great chimneys of the iron-foundries, and settles down in black, slimy pools on the muddy streets. Smoke on the wharves, smoke on the dingy boats, on the yellow river,- clinging in a coating of greasy soot to the house-front, the two faded poplars, the faces of the passers-by. (Harding Davis 45)

This means, Davis first makes her audience see, smell and feel the disgusting surroundings before she introduces the protagonist family. The character that is most pitifully shaped is Deborah. Her body is described as deformed and her skin as grey. Her hunchback is significant for the heavy work she had to do from an early age on. This character, whose youthful looks and health were stolen from her by poverty and hard work, addresses especially the women readership. She shows all the signs of degradation and little signs for hope: There was no warmth, no brilliancy, no summer for this woman; so the stupor and vacancy had time to gnaw into her face perpetually. She was young, too, though no one guessed it: so the gnawing was fiercer (Harding Davis 50). But there is yet another factor that contributes to her misery: the unfulfilled love for her cousin Hugh. She takes on heavy suffering for him, for instance, sharing the little half rotten food that she has for herself by taking it to Hughs work, after she had just come home from a tiresome day at the cotton mill. By putting her ugly outside in juxtaposition to her nice and loving inside, Davis amplifies the potential of empathy and compassion from the reader. She makes her appear human in a dehumanised world. While Deborah is the key object of pity, the character of her cousin Hugh is, nevertheless, also provoking empathy. He is constructed in a way that one cannot help but thinking that he does not belong there: 6

Physically, Nature had promised the man but little. He had already lost the strength and instinct vigor of a man, his muscles were thin, his nerves weak, his face (a meek, womans face), haggard, yellow with consumption.[] he was known as one of the girl-men.[] he was never seen in the cockpit, did not own a terrier, drank but seldom. (Harding Davis 51)

Iron mill workers are usually associated with the characteristics strong, muscular and tough, but Hugh Wolfe is the complete opposite. While the body of his female cousin is adapted to the surroundings, he appears to be constantly unfit. This unfitness is likely to provoke empathy. 3.2.3ShockValue

The text leaves the reader with the impression that the place changes the people. While the heavy industry has taken every natural aspect of the town, it has also transformed the people that live in it. These transformations become visible in a physical sense, as it is the case with Deborah, but also in a psychological one, as most people turn to drinking, in order to keep themselves up. There seems to be no escape, neither for the people nor for nature. This vicious circle, which creates an atmosphere of powerlessness, is very likely to trigger a feeling of agitation in the reader. Deborahs hunchback is, in fact, a very powerful and demonstrative example. It emblematises the heavy burden she has to carry everyday and there is no chance for her to escape. There obviously has never been, otherwise she would have never gotten to the level of a transformed body. This image of being trapped in a world that is not worth living in reappears when Hugh wanders around with the stolen money, contemplating his further actions:
There were times when the soft floods of color in the crimson and purple flames, or the clear depth of amber in the water below the bridge, had somehow given him a glimpse of another world than this,- of an infinite depth of beauty and of quiet somewhere,-somewhere,- a depth of quiet and rest and love. [] The fog had risen, and the town and river were steeped in its thick, gray damp; but overhead, the sun-touched smoke-clouds opened like a cleft ocean,- shifting, rolling seas of crimson mist, waves of

billowy silver veined with blood scarlet, inner depths unfathomable of glancing light. Wolfes artist-eye grew drunk with color. The gates of that other world. (Harding Davis 62)

Moreover, this quote demonstrates how Davis employs the method of comparison in order to highlight the unjust differences between the protagonists and the readers world. Along with the fact that there is hardly a chance to escape, this could be disturbing to the reader. It could make them feel uncomfortable in their secure world. There is another passage, where the tremendous contrast between the two classes is made an issue: the appearance of the visitors in the mill. Here it is important to note that Davis does not present them as a homogenic circle of upper class gentlemen, but as a group of men from different professions with different perspectives. By letting them debate the situation of the working class people, especially right in front of Hugh and his fellow workers, she generates the dehumanised image of the factory workers. The difference of these two worlds and classes and the injustice that goes hand in hand becomes even more visible when one gets an insight into Hughs thoughts on their conversation:
At every sentence, Wolfe listened more and more like a dumb, hopeless animal with a dumb, more solid look creeping over his face, glancing now and then at Mitchell, marking acutely every smallest sign of resignment, then back to himself, seeing as in a mirror his filthy body, his more stained soul. (Harding Davis 54)

The group of visitors functions as a mirror of Hughs sad reality. His own misery becomes even more visible through the comparison. In other words, Davis has employed this strategy wisely in reaching the readers conscious. By taking all the above-mentioned events into account, along with fact that Hugh never actually intended to steal the money and that he was seriously contemplating giving it back, it appears to be very unfair that he is sentenced as hard as (Arthur)possible, according to the jailer for xamples sake (Harding Davis 64). The general injustice that is displayed through the tough life of the working class characters is therefore even more enriched through an unjust trial that eventually causes the protagonists death.

3.2.4 Symbolic action

It has been mentioned above that the womanly, artistic and almost romantically established character of Hugh is very likely to provoke empathy in the reader. At the same time, however, it is the ambiguity of this figure that challenges the reader and leaves a lot of room for interpretation. He is not a representative of his class. He does not fit in the picture. What does he stand for? Are his sensitivity, his affection for art and beauty and his aesthetic nature maybe features that are especially appealing to the contemporary middle-class reader? It is the indeterminacy of meaning (Trodd xiii) of Hughs character that stimulates reflections which go beyond the reading of the text. The next aspect of the short story that has a very rich ambiguity is the korl woman, which is shaped by the protagonist out of industrial waste. The text highlights its feminine features and it becomes subject of interest to the group of gentlemen that visit the mill. The visitors show themselves surprised that a worker can make something like that. Then the sculpture has to obvious functions: on the one hand it becomes a symbol of hope for Hugh because it is suggested to him that for someone with his talent, a different life could be possible; and on the other hand, it is the statue of a woman figure that represents the hungry and deprived souls of the working class. This is what the text explicitly makes of the statue by letting the group contemplate about its appearance and about the talent of its sculpturer. Besides these obvious functions though, this sculpture leaves a lot of room for observation and interpretation. For instance that the visitors talk about her, almost as if she was alive: look at her! How hungry she is! (Harding Davis 56). She appears to be more humanised than the workers, who are almost being looked at as machines. Moreover, it is the ambiguity of a peace of art in a place like that per se that leaves room for thought. One could also read it as a mediator between different classes. It is, like Stauffer calls it, an open-ended symbol. Taking the discussion of the visitors into account, it becomes obvious that they all have a different view on the situation of the working class. While Kirby, the boss of the factory, stands for the typical capitalist who does not see the workers as human beings, his brother in law, Mitchell, is presented as the complete opposite. He seems to understand the general situation, which is the deep segregation of the classes, but seems to have capitulated in taking actions. Then, there is also Dr. May, whose words suggest pity while his actions demonstrate hypocrisy. It is striking that Davis presents the reader 9

with different opinions but not with a solution. That makes the debate a symbolic action because it provides different lines of argumentation on the subject that may inspire the audience to think further ahead and decide for themselves what they think is correct.

4. Upton Sinclairs The Jungle (1906)

4.1 Upton Sinclair the muckraker

By examining Sinclairs work, it becomes very obvious that social justice and the improvement of societys ills were his major concerns. Therefore, his literary reputation is less shaped by his style of writing, but by the issues he has touched upon. Bloodsworth accurately characterises him as a muckraker [a writer who exposes corruption], a propagandist, an interpreter of socialism and a critic of capitalism, a novelist more concerned with content than with form, a journalistic chronicler of his times rather than an enduring artist (20). As an advocate for the poor and unfortunate, he is often considered to have sacrificed a complex style of writing, which has prevented him from becoming a popular author of fiction. However, especially his most famous novel, The Jungle, has significantly affected American life. Not in the way Sinclair had intended to, namely in the improvement of workers rights and the rise of socialism, but in putting forward The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Disappointed by the failure of his intention, he declared that he had written the novel to touch the peoples heart and instead had hit in the stomach (Durst Johnson 99). Sinclair wanted to raise the publics awareness on wage slavery that had been brought to America along with the industrialisation in the 19th century. He chose the meatpacking industry to be the frame for his story and, for his research, went to live in Packingtown2. Arthur describes his enthusiasm by quoting Sinclairs self-introduction on his arrival: Hello! Im Upton Sinclair! And Ive come here to write the Uncle Toms Cabin of the Labor Movement (69). He spent several weeks in Chicago and his observations and investigations have let to the frame of the story, for instance to the use of an immigrant family.

Packingtown, an impoverished and highly industrial area of Chicago, was one of the major meatpacking centres in the United States at that time.


Arthur assigns the failure of the novels actual intended purpose to the distance between the contemporary reader, mostly middle-class women, and the topic. Moreover, he states that wage slavery in the twentieth century was not a literal fact but a metaphor; no workers were chained to their jobs or shot for trying to quit (70), which would have been the case for the protagonists in Uncle Toms Cabin. The following analysis of The Jungle, which will be conducted along the lines of the principles that are highlighted in chapter one, will examine the novels structure, content and style. At the same time, two things will be taken into account: the goal that Sinclair wanted to achieve and the one that he unintentionally achieved.

4.2 Rhetorical strategies

4.2.1 The role of the narrator

The narrator in The Jungle plays a far less explicit role than the one in Davis short story. The third person narrator is heterodiegetic, which means that he is not part of the narrated world. Moreover, he is internally focalised. Everything that is experienced, discovered or observed happens through the character: Jurgis saw how they managed it; there were portions of the work which determined the pace of the rest.[] You might easily pick out the pace-makers. According to Arthur this creates a sense of truthful authority (73), which is most likely an effect that is aspired in protest literature. 4.2.2 Empathy

The first aspect that is to mention here is Sinclairs powerful and vivid descriptions of the setting. One can sense, feel and smell the polluted surroundings. Arthur assigns this to the fact that the author endows the disgusting odors with a strangely aesthetic appeal and his immigrants with qualities of sophisticated insight and curiosity that go beyond simple realism into symbolism (74). This becomes especially visible when the family first arrives in the Stockyards of Chicago. From the train, they are observing how the surroundings change the closer they get to their destination. The reader experiences the atmosphere through their observations: They began to notice another circumstance, a strange, pungent odor. [] They were divided in their opinions about it. It was an elemental 11

odor, raw and crude; it was rich, almost rancid, sensual, and strong. There were some who drank it in as if it was an intoxicant; there were others who put their handkerchiefs to their faces. (Sinclair 27) (Sinclair) Arthurs observation becomes very obvious in this passage. The depiction of the odour exceeds a mere description and the words that the author uses most likely exceeds the diction of the rural Lithuanian family. It is the language of a rather educated speaker, like that of the audience. Therefore Sinclairs use of language creates a kind of empathy. Another very powerful way of provoking empathy in the reader, is the accumulation of disastrous events that the Rudkus family has to face. At the beginning of the novel, the reader learns about how it happened that the protagonist and his family came to America. In hope for a better future, they followed advertisements, which promoted excellent work prospects. They were basically being called. Moreover, Sinclair provides a retrospection of the familys life in Lithuania. Their rural life had not been unfortunate and thoroughly miserable. They were happy but thought they could be happier in the USA. Once in the United States, they are confronted with all kinds of severe obstacles that force them over time to give up their values in order to survive. In the initial chapter of the protagonists wedding reception, one can sense straight away how important the community, values and traditions are for the Lithuanian family. At the same time, one learns about the sacrifice that every family member has to make in order for this joyful event to happen and their disappointment about others taking advantage:
The veselija is a compact, a compact not expressed, but therefore only the more binding upon all. Every ones share was different- and yet every one knew perfectly well what his share was, and strove to give a little more. Now, however, since they had come to the new country, all this was changing; it seemed as if there must be some subtle poison in the air that one breathed here- it was affecting all the young men at once. (Sinclair 18)

According to Yoder the qualities that were desirable in the good peasant were not those conducive to success in the transition. Neighbourliness, obedience, respect, and status were valueless among the masses that struggled for space on the way (59). 12

Sinclair used this example of moral decay to demonstrate the negative effects that the Packingtown life had on the family. It could have created a basis of sympathy between the middle-class audience, who would most likely not like to lose their moral standards, and the protagonist family. Moreover, the protagonist is, from the beginning, determined to fight his family through the struggles. He wants the women to be able to stay home and the children to go to school. His general answer to every obstacle is I will work harder. But it soon becomes obvious that a good work ethic does not assure prosperity, not even mere survival. By demonstrating that the American dream is myth, Sinclair most probably intended to reach the readers hearts. And by choosing an immigrant family, who came to the United States with high hopes, he retold the story of almost every American citizen. But it is not only the constant setbacks that are aimed at provoking empathy in the reader; it is also their horrific consequences. First, old Antanas, the protagonists father, dies a horribly slow death by having to work in a highly toxic environment:
The sores would never heal- in the end his toes would drop off, if he did not quit. Yet old Antanas would not quit; he saw the suffering of his family, and he remembered what it had cost him to get a job. So he tied up his feet, and went on limping about and coughing, until at last he fell to peaces, al at once and in a heap, like the One-Horse Shay. (Sinclair 77)

Here, Sinclair demonstrates how the eldest of the family sacrifices himself in order for the rest to survive. One-Horse Shay adverts to a poem by Wendell Holmes, where a perfectly built carriage collapses during an earthquake (Sinclair 77). This intensifies the image of somebody dying long before they are meant to. Furthermore, twelve-year-old Stanislovas is the first child of the family that had to be taken out of school in order to secure the familys survival. After having witnessed a fellow child worker losing his fingers at work, because they were so frozen that they broke off when a man wanted to rub them warm, he had to be beaten to work every morning during winter. Later in the novel, the reader learns the cruel end of Stanislovas fate, namely that he was literally eaten by rats while being mistakenly locked in at his work one night. Next to the dreadful suffering of old people and children, Sinclairs description of the womens fate is not less tragic. Her boss forces Ona, the protagonists wife, into 13

prostitution and threatens her with the prospect of the entire family losing their jobs if she does not obey. This situation, especially Jurgis reaction, triggers a chain of horrible consequences that eventually lead to Onas death. Marija, her cousin, is also forced into prostitution. She explains to Jurgis how it happened to her and how it happens everyday to a lot of women:
She was a store-clerk, and she hired herself to a men to be sent here to work at a factory. [] this girl was put into a room alone, and they gave her some dope in her food, and when she came to she found that she had been ruined. She cried, and screamed, and tore her hair, but she had nothing but a wrapper, and couldnt get away, and they kept her half insensible with drugs all the time, until she gave up. (Sinclair 281)

That demonstrates the helplessness of immigrant women that have come to do regular work and that are forced into prostitution and drug abuse. While earlier in the novel prostitution had been an unimaginable thing for the women of the family, Marija is now talking about it in a completely detached manner. She seems numb and indifferent about her own life now when a couple of chapters earlier, she had dreams of getting married to Tamoszius and building a life with him. The list of crucial events is long, but there is another character that plays an important role in the authors intent to evoke empathy, namely little Antanas. Named after his grandfather, whose death is described above, he seems to be the hope of the family. Onas and Jurgis first child, born in America, is Jurgis only reason to keep on fighting after his wifes death: But with Onas dead body beneath his eyes, Jurgis could not well think of treason to his child. He said, he would try, for the sake of Antanas. He would give the little fellow his chance- would get to work at once (Sinclair 186). But while baby Antanas, for a short time, stands for a better future, history repeats itself and he dies a painful death, drowning in a puddle on a dirty street in Packingtown. By using the same name for Jurgis father and his son, Sinclair highlights the drama that haunts all generations of the family. All in all, Sinclair almost uses every character of the family to depict pain. Some die the most inhumane deaths and those who survive have to fight a battle of survival that necessarily brings about the question, if death was not be more humane. In doing so, he basically addresses the reader as a mother, as a father, a son, etc. The author probably even thought these tragically and powerfully described disasters to be more 14

effective in provoking empathy than the work site per se. However, the success of the book has shown differently. Arthur assigns this to the perspective of the contemporary, mostly female, middle-classed readership by explaining that workers problems for these readers were mostly distant and theoretical concerns, no matter how vividly described (70). 4.2.3 Shock Value When one thinks about aspects that were meant to shock the reader, the most obvious one is the setting. According to Arthur, Sinclair chose his story to be set in the meatpacking industry because meat, or rather food, is something that concerns everybody. The passing of the Meat Inspection Act or the Pure Food and Drug Act were not at all intended. However, through his outrageous depiction of the disastrous circumstances in the processing and packaging of something that concerns the whole nation, he definitely wanted to hit a nerve:
There would be hams found spoiled, some of them with an odour so bad that a man could hardly bear to be in a room with them. To pump into these the packers had a second and much stronger pickle which destroyed the odor- a process known to the workers as giving them thirty per cent. Also, after the hams had been smoked, there would be found some that had gone to the bad. Formerly, these had been sold as Number Three Grade, [] and now they would extract the bone, about which the bad part generally lay, and insert in the whole a white-hot iron. (Sinclair 131)

Every member of the Rudkus family is employed in a different kind of job, be it on the killingbeds, the cannery or the fertilizer room. Therefore, the reader gets horrific firsthand information from every part of the meatpacking process. However, the descriptions of the conditions at the workspaces and the work per se are the authors main concern. Therefore, they outnumber the passages about unhygienic meat processing by far and they are also not less disastrous. In order to alarm the reader, Sinclair often combines different aspects. The rapid pace of men working with cleavers and knives on slippery floors is suggested by the number of animals processed; 10,000 cattle, 10,000 hogs, and 5,000 sheep each day, or 10 million animals a year. (Durst Johnson 111) In doing that, he generates an image that displays overall exploitation: of a ridiculous amount of slaughtered animals, which 15

had not been possible even half a decade earlier and of the worker who is working under extremely dangerous conditions in order to keep up with the pace. A very exemplary passage is a description of Mikolas job as a beef boner because they do not get paid by time but by peace: Your hands are slippery, and your knife is slippery, and you are toiling like mad, when somebody happens to speak to you, or you strike a bone. Then your hand slips up on the blade, and there is a fearful gash. And that would not be so bad, only for the deadly contagion (Sinclair 14). It would exceed the boundaries of this paper, but there are many examples for a variety of topics that Sinclair engages in, in order to demonstrate the hard life of immigrant workers. Johnson puts these in a nutshell:
Long hours and poverty-level wages, the resultant squalid living conditions, hazards in the workplace: disease and accidents, the insecure and seasonal nature of work, child labour, immigrant labor, speed-ups, lack of medical or unemployment compensation, retirement funds, and other safety nets, sexual harassment, homelessness, political corruption, union, strikes and scabs, blacklisting. (Durst Johnson 99)

Every single one of these topics is illustrated through horrible and vividly described situations that the protagonist or a family member is going through. Each of the situations is shocking per se but the conglomerate of them a great deal more. Various critics have criticised the novel for exactly that by saying that the accumulation of disasters creates incredibility. Trodd claims, for instance, that within the protest tradition, the real problem of the novel is Sinclairs naturalist mode. Jurgis learns that life is a war, and to show this learning process Sinclair puts him through a series of representative experiences and narrates his inevitable decline (Trodd 216). By taking into account that Sinclair, towards the end of the novel, intents to persuade the reader of the benefits of socialism, his approach becomes somewhat more comprehensible. However, Johnson sees the novel as the most enduring [and] graphic portrait of a variety of unskilled work within a massive industry (Durst Johnson 110), which suggests that Sinclair did in a way succeed with his literary protest work. Just not in the way he had intended.


4.2.4 Symbolic action Compared to Davis narrative, it is much harder to detect open-ended symbols, rich ambiguity or elements that leave room for interpretation. That can be explained by the fact that the author provides a concrete answer to all the misery that had been vividly illustrated throughout the first 27 chapters, namely socialism. One could argue that certain passages already generate the thought of somewhat socialist ideas in the reader. For instance, when the little boy Jouzopas, who uses a broomstick for walking because he lost a leg in an accident, goes to the dumps in order to look for something to eat. There, a real fine lady (Sinclair 195), as the boy describes her, with feathers on her hat, approaches him. She is shocked about the little boy looking for food in the garbage and interrogates him about his life. After telling her the miserable events that happened to him and his family, she promises to come by his house to bring him a real crutch. She kept her word and tells his surprised mother that she is a settlement worker. In the end, she even sends a basket with food, along with a letter of recommendation for Jurgis, who is having a hard time finding a job. In this passage, Sinclair lets the members of two completely different classes converge and also get along. Unlike most of the previous plot, this passage implicitly suggests to the reader that something like that is actually possible. If the story ended openly, passages like that could foster or bring about socialist thinking, but the author fills the gap himself. After a long chain of disgraceful events, he eventually discovers socialism and his story basically ends there. The last four chapters are completely dedicated to the development of socialist ideas, which Jurgis explores in meetings, conversations and speeches of others. However, there are two aspects that remain to be mentioned at this point. Firstly, the title could be seen as something symbolic that leaves room for debate. While many readers, due to the effect that the novel had, would probably associate it with the killing of animals, one could also interpret it in a different, probably more Sinclair way. Namely that American society [] had returned to the law of the jungle, where might makes right in a brutal survival of the fittest (Yoder 59). That interpretation would of course go hand in hand with Sinclairs objective of making the workers everyday fight for survival the key issue. But, as mentioned earlier, his contemporary audience drew somewhat different conclusions from the novel, which leads to the last point: How come that the comparatively few passages on rotten meat were so much more powerful 17

than 27 chapters of human beings fighting for their lives? Yoder provides a coherent answer to this question: Literature becomes impressive and memorable when it reduces abstract concepts to concrete examples. It is easier to remember that childrens fingers, cows foetuses, and rat dung are the unlisted ingredients in deviled ham than that workers are oppressed [] in a capitalistic economy (62). If one considers the criteria that were established for this chapter at the beginning of the paper, one could argue that the whole novel became symbolic for something that was beyond the authors intent. Its symbolic action was completely constructed by reader.


While both authors are addressing the subject of white, immigrant wage slavery, it has been worked out in this analysis that they significantly differ in their aims and approaches. While Sinclair was aiming at a reorganisation of society, the message was more important for him than the style. Davis, on the other hand, did not aspire a revolution with her narrative. Although she addressed social ills, she much rather used the subject for creating fiction. In other words, her focus is to be seen on the style. Hence, her narrative incorporates extensive stylistic features. She employs two narrative levels and two different kinds of narrators. The narrative begins with a homodiegetic narrator, who literally incorporates the audience by addressing it directly. It almost seems as if this narrator takes the middle-class audience by the hand in order to prepare it for the embedded narrative, which, narrated by a third person narrator, tells the dramatic fate of two Welsh immigrant workers. In contrast to this complex narrative structure, Sinclairs text appears to be rather simplex. His novel is narrated by a heterodiegetic narrator with internal focalisation. This means that the reader experiences the plot through the observations, feelings and experiences of the characters: a Lithuanian family that came to live and work in the meat-packing district of Chicago. However, the plot of the two narratives was analysed along the lines of three key terms of protest literature, which have been established by Stauffer, namely empathy, shock value and symbolic action. It has been examined if the terms are applicable to the two narratives and which aspects the authors employed respectively. In order to provoke empathy in the reader, both authors use the setting by creating a dirty and distasteful image that displays the effects of industrialisation. While 18

Davis literally guides the reader through the polluted place, Sinclair provides his characters with extensive observatory and interpretive skills that make the reader experience the horrible setting. Both authors use their characters fates for reaching the audiences hearts. However, as the different narrative structures suggest, the outcome also differs significantly. By presenting the reader with an accumulation of horrific events that haunt every member of the protagonist family, Sinclair portrays the process of decline that they go through. He highlights the exploitation that is employed on every family member, no matter what gender and generation. Moreover, he displays their sacrifices and eventual loss of values. By demonstrating, for instance, that a good work ethic does not even assure survival, he is challenging the idea of the American dream. Davis, on the contrary, focuses on the effects that the hard working class life has on the two protagonists. The reader learns about them through the embedded narrative, which focuses on only one night of their lives and its crucial consequences. Here, the elements of empathy lie both on the horrific transformations of the female protagonists body and her unfulfilled love, and on the unfitness to the hard working environment that the male protagonist portrays by being rather female, artistic and romantically established. Transformations of the characters, be they psychologically or physically, can also be categorised as shock value in both of the texts. However, Davis additionally employs a comparison that exposes the strong contrast of the readers and the protagonists world. The resulting dehumanised image that is displayed of the protagonists also plays an agitating role. In terms of shock value, it has been worked out that Sinclair has especially used the meatpacking industry for reaching a broad audience because it concerns the whole nation. By displaying the shocking circumstances that concern the packing of the readers food, he has employed an aspect that directly affects them. Therefore, these passages have shown to overshadow the elements that were actually intended to shock the reader, like for instance horrific diseases and accidents at the workplace. The last rhetorical strategy that was subject to the analysis of this paper is the symbolic action. This is meant to generate further debate and discourse in the reader. In Davis narrative, three elements have been identified that belong to this category: First, the ambiguity of the male protagonists character, which manifests itself in his unfitness for the place; secondly, the statue that the same protagonist shapes out of industrial 19

waste, which is interpreted as an open-ended symbol since it leaves a lot of room for the readers interpretation; and thirdly, the implementation of different kinds of viewpoints on the working class situation, which are manifested in the conversation of a middleclass group of men. Sinclairs narrative, on the other hand, does not really show the features that were assigned to the category of symbolic action. This is resulting from the fact, that he does give the reader a clear answer to the problems of the working class: socialism. The only open-ended symbol that was exposed in the analysis is the title. The Jungle could be interpreted in different ways, especially since the audience has proven to interpret the whole novel in a different way than the author intended. Instead of changes in the rights of the workers, the novel triggered significant changes in the regulations of the food industry. Therefore, it is suggested to look at the whole novel a symbolic act because the meaning is completely constructed by the audience, beyond the authors intent (Trodd xiii). While both texts were considerably successful at the time, they continue to have a meaning today. Although Sinclair had been disappointed about his novel not having the effect that he intended, he unintentionally succeeded in fixing another ill of society. Davis, immediately after novel, gained success as a writer. With Life in the Iron Mills she is said to have influenced further developments in protest fiction.


Primary Sources:

Harding Davis, Rebecca. Life in the Iron Mills. Heath Antology of American Literature. Lauter, Paul, Ed. vol.II. 2nd ed. Lexington: Heath, 1994. 45-70. Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. Ed. Clare Virginia Eby. London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003.

Secondary Sources:

Arthur, Anthony. The Jungle Was Designed to Bolster the Labor Movement. Workers Rights in Upton Sinclairs The Jungle. Ed. Gary Wiener. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008. 68-78. Bloodworth, William A.. The Life of Upton Sinclair. Workers Rights in Upton Sinclairs The Jungle. Ed. Gary Wiener. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008. 2030. Durst Johnson, Claudia. Labor and Workplace Issues in Literature. Westport, Conneticut: Greenwood Press, 2006. Trodd, Zoe. American Protest Literature. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006. Yoder, Jon A. The Jungle Depicted the Plight of Immigrant Workers. Workers Rights in Upton Sinclairs The Jungle. Ed. Gary Wiener. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008. 57-67