The Lithuanian Jungle


International Union Stockyards, Chicago, Illinois

So after I read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, I read some of the ancillary material in the end of the Norton Critical Edition that added to my understanding of the novel. I read an interesting statement from Wages and Family Budgets in the Chicago Stockyards District: “The Lithuanians, Poles, and Slovaks will work for wages which would seem small to the average American workingman. The standards of living of these workers are comparatively low and over half of them are boarders without families to support, so they can easily underbid Americans Germans, and Bohemians.” In the novel, we see Jurgis and many other Lithuanians working for low wages that take away jobs from Americans. And they live under deplorable conditions. Well, this accurately describes today’s immigrants, regardless of their origin.

I also read a very interesting book that researched the places described in The Jungle: Upton Sinclair: The Lithuanian Jungle by Giedrius Subacius, whom I actually met since he is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. This book simply enthralled me because I remembered the areas Subacius describes. When I met him, I had not yet read his book. He described how he went and spoke to people from Back of the Yards. The book has recent pictures of the neighborhood and some from the archives for places that no longer exist. After speaking to him, I tried checking out the book from the UIC Richard J. Daley Library, but it was constantly checked out. I finally checked it out over the summer when no one was using it for class. This book is a must-read for any Chicago history buff.

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David Diego Rodríguez, Ph.D.

I write about whatever comes to mind. También enseño español y escribo acerca de los mexicanos y la enseñanza del español.