by Farley Elliott
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 cafÃ© 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 aÂ “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.Â ♦