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Posted on May 7th, 2014, by

The opposition of a man as a leader and ruler of the destinies and a woman as a subordinate creature is one of the reasons of social disharmony, inequality of male and female roles. It should be mentioned that many social problems of women are similar to problems of male and female role distribution in society. In the past there was no social inequality between people, especially between men and women. The latter played a secondary role, fulfilling their domestic and maternal duties. Although a lot of historians and archeologists state that there were times when women played a leading role in social life of the community. This was the epoch of matriarchy.

It is important to admit that the more a woman was worshipped during a certain historical period, the more humiliating was her social status in reality. In Ancient Greece, for example, women’s beauty was immortalized by means of sculptures and designs of temples, but in reality girls were often sold, and women were viewed only as voiceless housewives. Besides, women were not allowed to be involved in social activities. What about America? It is a question of discussion whether the female role has changed in due course, or whether it has remained the same.

No work for women

In “the Jungle”¯ by Upton Sinclair the representatives of middle class appear episodically in the form of secondary characters. The major role in the novel belongs to workers, mainly to Jurgis Rudkus, “with the mighty shoulders and the giant hands”¯[1]. Jurgis represents the writer’s new character with certain features peculiar to many workers. A Lithuanian emigrant Jurgis and his close people went to America, full of hopes and expectations. He has learnt that in America workers are paid three rubles, and started dreaming that he would become a rich man there, with a good wife into a bargain. He thought of a well-balanced life and happiness.

In the course of time, Jurgis faces a lot of troubles. People who are close to him die. And he himself suffers a lot. But at the same time he learns to survive in harsh reality from personal experience and on the example of other people. In such a way, the author states his own opinion about the American reality of those times. The author of “the Jungle”¯ admits and criticizes the inconsistent and unlawful society of America which is based on oppression and exploitation. Sinclair also gives an idea of creating new society.

The novel of Sinclair is a collection of numerous facts, details and much information dealing with the roles of men and women in American society. The author was concerned with this topic and tried to reveal the problem in his works. At that time women were not as independent as nowadays. Their main role was to work hard at factories and get minimum wages. In “the Jungle”¯ one of the characters called Marija works “in a canning factory, and all day long she handles cans of beef that weigh fourteen pounds”¯[2]. This used to be a feature of Lithuania. It proves that in those times women worked as hard as men, having no other choice. However, most women also had to fulfill domestic duties, raise children and take care of their husbands. Isn’t it too much for fragile women? On the other hand, the author of “the Jungle”¯ has a passionate attitude to people, events and facts. Neither Jurgis, nor his female companions realized that America was both a land of high salary and a land of high prices. And a man or woman in America could be as poor as in Lithuania or anywhere else in the world.

Jurgis quickly found a job at the cattle factory, practically the next day after he came to America. As for Marija, who came to America together with Jurgis, she was walking the streets the whole day and couldn’t find any job. “Lofty office personages stared at her as if they thought she was crazy”¯[3]. It shows inequality of men and women in America in those times. In comparison with modern times, women’s social role was very restricted, which is clearly shown in “the Jungle”¯. Finally, Marija found a job, but with a lot of struggle. It demonstrates how hard it was for women to survive.



[1] Sinclair, “The Jungle”¯, 4.

[2] Sinclair, “The Jungle”¯, 10.

[3] Sinclair, “The Jungle”¯, 47.

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