Minutiæ



Reconciliation1.70

In Print

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After a thor­ough read­ing of Upton Sinclair’s con­fus­ing­ly pop­u­lar The Jun­gle, you may well end up think­ing the very same thing I, Franklin Earnest Armour, did while sip­ping café au lait in our Hyde Park arbore­tum last Sat­ur­day: What? Dig­ging through the chap­ters, it is abun­dant­ly clear that Sinclair’s Social­ist agen­da is noth­ing more than vocal praise for a lazy immi­grant major­i­ty.

At least that is what my father says. I don’t quite under­stand it.

As the sole heir to the Armour Meats empire, it is my duty to spend sev­er­al hours a month learn­ing about the fam­i­ly busi­ness, which I like because I get can­dies. Often­times, there are these befud­dling unions or women’s rights groups say­ing mean things about my fam­i­ly. In most cas­es, noth­ing more is need­ed in this civ­i­lized Chica­go soci­ety than to pen off a nasty mis­sive. As for Upton Sin­clair, my father says that man is sim­ply a  “pseu­do-jour­nal­ist cad.” He’s always telling me to stiff­en up, my father, but with entire rooms in our Lake Michi­gan man­sion ded­i­cat­ed to exot­ic feath­er pil­lows, I would rather lie down. For his sake, and the sake of Armour Meats and their fine line of Meat and Meat-Lite prod­ucts, I shall try.

The Jun­gle fol­lows the per­plex­ing life of Jur­gis Rud­kus, a “Lithuan­ian” immi­grant who earns gain­ful employ­ment at one of Chicago’s pre­mière meat pack­ing plants. Despite a fair wage and all the suet trim­mings he could hope to pil­fer, Rud­kus finds him­self shamed out of a job while his dirty chil­dren run ram­pant in the streets, hawk­ing papers. At one point, a half-crazed nou­veau riche man unthink­ably gives Rud­kus car­riage fare — a $100 bill! — but the poor man man­ages to lose it, his wife and his chil­dren all with­in about thir­ty pages. How gauche.

Accord­ing to my father, the ani­mal byprod­uct mag­nate Philip Dan­forth Armour, Rud­kus’ tale of los­ing every­thing — despite the con­tin­ued hand­outs giv­en to him — is a fright­en­ing­ly com­mon affair. Most immi­grant men can­not help them­selves but to drown in the ”˜fire water’, or man­age to work them­selves so slow­ly that they fall asleep while on the fac­to­ry floor. Many men have indeed tum­bled into ren­der­ing vats, but due only to their sleepi­ness and gen­er­al pro­cliv­i­ties to want too much, too fast. Each man is giv­en a ration of pork ren­der­ing for his dai­ly sup, yet every year a glut of boat rats (my father’s nick­name for the immi­grants) find their way into the bot­tom of a bub­bling caul­dron of pork after-parts. Gauche indeed!

What Sin­clair fails to men­tion in any of the wordy pages of The Jun­gle is the plight of the pack­ing baron. Where­as the aver­age immi­grant must only pro­vide for six­teen or sev­en­teen chil­dren, a sin­gle wealthy busi­ness own­er like my father spends count­less pen­nies a day hav­ing men shine his shoes, hold spit­toons and act as man-bridges over pud­dles of excre­ment. It’s no easy feat to be a father to the city of Chica­go, Papa Armour is quick to remind. I weep think­ing of my poor father spend­ing a sin­gle dime to keep anoth­er immi­grant employed for three weeks. If only the low­er class­es would choose to make more mon­ey!

While I fail to see what all the ”˜fuss’ is about con­cern­ing Upton Sinclair’s imag­i­na­tive work The Jun­gle, it has caused a bit of a stir in local pol­i­tics. I know because future May­or Busse came to din­ner last night! He is a bois­ter­ous man who enjoys brandy. Indeed, soci­ety may be chang­ing (We recent­ly have been hav­ing much fun with our new Vic­tro­la!), but one thing will almost cer­tain­ly remain clear: this book is absolute, untrust­wor­thy sen­sa­tion­al­ist rub­bish. Just ask my father.  ♦