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At the beginning of the twentieth century, a massive wave of immigrants from the southern and eastern parts of Europe came to America in search of economic opportunities. They carried to America all the dreams and hopes of wealth. When finally reaching America, these naive immigrants faced a new struggle and learned the harsh reality of America. In Upton Sinclair's novel, The Jungle, he describes the life of an immigrant family from Lithuania that venture off to America in search of a better life. After their arrival and stay, they struggle to keep alive and barely meek their way through life.
Sinclair's style of describing the characters, conflicts, and ideas illustrates the struggle and heartache of immigrants' life in the early 1900's. Sinclair's style of imagery, diction, and tone helps create the atmosphere needed for the reader to imagine the events taken place. In the beginning, Sinclair uses a flash-forward. This scene, a wedding, gave the reader the impression of hope, life, and dreams. Behind this joyful celebration, the author implements worries and depression. Although this should be a celebration, the reader sees the bride crying, hears the throbbing tunes of a melancholy song, smells the stench of alcohol upon everyone's lips, and feel the urgency of each individual to get home, rest, and begin a new day at work
"Most fearful they are to comtemplate, the expenses of this entertainment.." (12). The only thought expressed throughout this scene are horrors of how they are going to pay. Sinclair uses vivid details to describe the life of in immigrant. These details do more than show the reader what is happening, but the reader can actually feel what the immigrant feels. "They could feel the cold as it crept in through the cracks, reaching out for them with its icy, death-dealing fingers" (82). Sinclair offers more than a description to the reader, he shares an experience.
The imagery takes the reader to new heights of sensation and feeling. "It was sickening, like a nightmare, in which suddenly something gives way beneath you, and you feel yourself sinking, sinking, down into bottomless abysses" (69). Also, Sinclair uses his vivid imagery to reveal the images seen through the eyes of the immigrant. No matter what a scene contains, he continues the story with gruesome detail. It was too dark in these storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over these piles of meat and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung of rats.
These rats were nuisances, and the packers would put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread and meat would go into the hopper together.. there were thing that went into the sausage in comparison with which a poisoned rat was a tidbit (135). Sinclair also applies diction throughout his novel. He utilizes this the literary tool and aids the reader in understanding the environment surrounding the immigrant. He never gives the reader an explanation of what the immigrant has just said in his/her native tongue. He simply continues on with the story, leaving the reader as confused as the immigrant is.
"Ai! Ai! Beda man!" (69). "Eik! Eik! Uzdayk-daris!" (2). "Sudiev' kvietkeli, tu brangiausis; Sudiev' ir laime, man biednam, matau-paskyre teip Aukszcziausis, Jog vargt ant svieto teik vienam!" (8). Sinclair never stops the story to explain to the reader what has happened, he simply moves on, without regard to the clueless reader. Sinclair's usage of dialect became a useful tool.
He provides the reader with some ear candy. He introduces words spoken to the characters as one would hear them if they were apart of the time as well. " 'If ye have iver had onything to do wid shperrits,' he said, and looked inquiringly as Jurgis, who kept shaking his head. 'Niver mind, niver mind,' continued the other, 'but their influences may be operatin' upon ye; it's shure as I'm tellin' ye, it's them that has the reference to the immegit surroundin's that has the most power'" (89). Sinclair handles a number of characters throughout his novel, but concentrates on the hardships and trials of one particular character. Jurgis Rudkis came to America in search of what every immigrant came for.
He came with na"ive ideas, filling the heads of his family of the same na"ive ideas and dreams as he. "Jurgis was confident of his ability to get work for himself, unassisted by anyone" (30). To make matters worse, when they arrive, Jurgis's ego boosts when the boss of a stockyard chooses him above the rest. As the novel continues, Jurgis realizes the horrors that he brought himself and his family into. He soon began to realize in little less than a year, that the world had cheated him and deprived him of a life.
"The great corporation which employed you lied to you, and lied to the whole country-from top to bottom it was nothing but a gigantic lie. So Jurgis said that he understood it; and yet it was really pitiful, for the struggle was so unfair-some had so much the advantage!" (74). Jurgis's and his family's struggle seems to never seize. The family loses a family member, Jurgis's father. Marija loses her job at the canning factory, and both's incomes were greatly depended upon to survive and pay rent.
Not only this, but Jurgis's and Ona's hours are cut nearly in half. (78-89). For the most part, Jurgis suffered more than all the family. He carried all the responsibilities of keeping the family alive, and one tragedy nearly killed them off. "It was dreadful that an accident of this sort, that no man can help, should have meant such suffering..
It was no use for them to try to deceive him; he knew as much about the situation as they did, and he knew that the family night literally starve to death" (115). Jurgis's bad luck seemed to never run thin, when something 'wonderful' happened, a tragedy would soon follow.
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