Munmun Masud

November 6th, 2010

“Dieve—but I’m glad I’m not a hog!”

Posted by munmunmasud in Uncategorized

“The shriek was followed by another, louder and yet more agonizing—for once started upon that journey, the hog never came back: at the top of the wheel he was shunted off upon a trolley, and went sailing down the room. And meantime another was swung up, and went sailing down the room, and another, until there was a double line of them, each dangling by a foot and kicking in frenzy—and squealing…There were high squeals and low squeals, grunts, and wails of agony…Meantime, heedless of all these things, the men upon the floor were going about their work. Neither squeals of hogs nor tears of visitors made any difference to them; one by one they hooked up the hogs, and one by one with a swift stroke they slit their throats. There was a long line of hogs, with squeals and lifeblood ebbing away together; until at last each started again, and vanished with a splash into a huge vat of boiling water. It was all so very businesslike that one watched it fascinated. It was porkmaking by machinery, porkmaking by applied mathematics. And yet somehow the most matter-of-fact person could not help thinking of the pigs; they were so innocent, they came so very trustingly and they were so very human in their protests—and so perfectly within their rights! They had done nothing to deserve it; and it was adding insult to injury…It was like some horrible crime committed in a dungeon, all unseen and unheeded, buried out of sight and of memory…—it did its cruel will with him, as if his wishes, his feelings, had simply no existence at all; it cut his throat and watched him gasp out of his life. And now was one to believe that there was nowhere a god of hogs, to whom this hog personality was precious, to whom these hog squeals and agonies had a meaning? Who would take this hog into his arms and comfort him, reward him for his work well done, and show him the meaning of his sacrifice? Perhaps some glimpse of all this was in the thoughts of our humble-minded Jurgis, as he turned to go on with the rest of the party, and muttered: “Dieve—but I’m glad I’m not a hog!” (Chapter 3, page 35-36)

This rather long “quote” is just one of the many disturbing passages in Upton Sinclair’s, The Jungle. This quote best represents a theme of suffrage, which is vividly repetitive throughout the book. From my perspective, I certainly believe that Sinclair incorporated this passage to juxtapose these animals in the factories to the poor and working class people of Chicago—for example, Jurgis Rudkus and his twelve-member family. The disturbing aspect of this passage is the fact that the animals must undergo numerous strategic paths (“knocker,” “killing bed,” “butcher”) for the worst outcome—death. This is similar to the “pathway” Jurgis and his family lived, as they too underwent numerous adversities, illnesses, and deaths.

Sinclair tactically incorporated such a passage and that too, towards the very beginning of the book to inform the reader how harshly these animals were killed and packaged. Deliberately, or not, Sinclair is stating the obvious—the person behind the machines are also in the position of the animals being killed, both butcher and animal are victims. The animal is the victim of the butcher, and the butcher is the victim of capitalism. Hence, the strong have and always will prey on the weak.

The quote, “for once started upon that journey, the hog never came back,” resembles immigrants who hear about America and are relentless to achieve something in a land where money comes in abundance, or so they assume. These assumptions are derived from success stories passed on from the relatives or simple town dwellers. And so, the person becomes entangled in this web of lies and achieves to become a successful American. The immigrant begins his journey to America, facing problems along the way, and plenty more after establishing a life in America. In comparison to the hog, the immigrant cannot manage to go back to wherever he has come from because he is impoverished, does not have enough money, or has simply died from countless complications. The quote, “at the top of the wheel he was shunted off upon a trolley, and went sailing down the room. And meantime another was swung up, and went sailing down the room, and another,” portrays the lives of many immigrants, that is swiftly spiraling downwards. And as mentioned, one by one, each immigrant is becoming the victim of unfair work wages, hours and mistreatment.

The following quote, “they were so innocent, they came so very trustingly and they were so very human in their protests—and so perfectly within their rights! They had done nothing to deserve it; and it was adding insult to injury” can also be related to the lives of the newly migrated immigrants. Jurgis and his family were “innocent.” However, each member was taken advantage of in the workforce. His wife, Ona was raped by her manager. Even though Teta Elzbieta was old, she was given multiple jobs that required hard labor (managing heavy equipment, scrubbing floors) for low wage. Marija was a strong woman; therefore, she was hired to do a man’s job for half the price. Soon after, her husband dies at work, being swarmed with rats and so, Marija ultimately resorts to prostitution. Clearly, none of the characters have done anything to “deserve” such hardships. Ultimately, these occurrences did in fact add “insult to injury.”

“Meantime, heedless of all these things, the men upon the floor were going about their work. Neither squeals of hogs nor tears of visitors made any difference to them; one by one they hooked up the hogs, and one by one with a swift stroke they slit their throats.” This portion of the quote is a direct parallel of the relationship between the factory worker and his superintendent. The superintendent is a wealthy man, he his ruthless and will take away the worker’s job in an instant because he is powerful. The worker’s “tears” will not make “any difference” to him. The slitting of the hog’s throat is analogous to a superintendent firing a worker.

Sinclair writes, “It was all so very businesslike that one watched it fascinated. It was porkmaking by machinery, porkmaking by applied mathematics.” The term “businesslike” can be referred to politics and the very business mentality of it. Jurgis, of course was associated with politics when he assisted a corrupt political boss, Mike Scully. That too consisted of applied mathematics as he was a member of the political scheme, undermining the efforts of the union while being paid with corrupt money.

The last portion of the quote is quite ironic. Jurgis states, “but I’m glad I’m not a hog!” In reality, most immigrants similar to Jurgis were just like the “hog” because of the dangers faced at work and home. The hog/immigrant is presumably seen as innocent, naïve, and frail. Therefore, such characteristics only progressed them in becoming the prey of a capitalist society.

Print Friendly


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

  • Monthly

  • Links

  • Meta

    • Subscribe to RSS feed
    • The latest comments to all posts in RSS
    • Subscribe to Atom feed
    • Powered by WordPress; state-of-the-art semantic personal publishing platform.
    • Firefox - Rediscover the web
  • Spam prevention powered by Akismet

    Skip to toolbar