In Upton Sinclairs', "The Jungle," an extended family of Lithuanian descent, immigrate to turn of the 20th century America with the good intentions of working hard and prospering. After settling into the meat packing district of Chicago and finding jobs, the family quickly finds themselves brutally repressed by the packers they work for. Blood is a recurring metaphor both in the stockyards and in the eventual deaths of most of the family members. Upon arriving in Packington the family of Jurgis Rudkus take pride in thinking they have achieved the American dream by committing their life's savings into the purchase of a home. But their pride is shattered upon discovering that they have been swindled into buying a home of very poor workmanship. After years of struggling to survive, Jurgis discovers an alternative political system. Socialism offers Jurgis the opportunity to rise up against his oppressors.
It was not long after Jurgis had his first job in the killing beds of Durham's, as a sweeper of the bloody entrails of steer carcasses, that he began to understand that workers are faced with dangerous work conditions and poor labor practices. Stagnant air in the summer, bitter cold in the winter, poor lighting conditions, and no washrooms combine to make the stockyards a dangerous place to work. But the bosses are not interested in the comfort of their workers. Instead, they engage in practices such as "speeding up the gang," where men are worked at a fever pitch. The work pace was set by the bosses, whose job it was to be sure there was never a moment of rest for the men. If any man cannot keep up with the intense pace he would quickly be replaced by one of the hundreds waiting outside. One can relate the speeding up of workers metaphorically to the rushing through of the workers lives, without dignity and without reward, existing only for the benefit of the stockyard owners. Sinclair uses conditions such as these in the stockyards effectively with hyperbole or exaggeration.
The Rudkus family found out the hard way that the entire premise of Packingtown was to swindle newly arriving immigrants for every cent they possessed and for every fiber of their being. They learned how agents of Packintown back in their hometown of Lithuania tricked them. The agents where sent to cities and towns of Europe to recruit unsuspecting people with promises of work and high wages at the stockyards. But the worst swindle of all was how the family was betrayed by a fast talking agent into the purchase of what they where told was a new home worth fifteen hundred dollars to build. The agent concealed the fact that the house was fifteen years old and only cost five hundred dollars to build. Here again, Sinclair uses hyperbole to illustrate the poor quality of the house, bad plumbing, leaky weatherboards, and no insulation from the cold. It was amongst a row of houses built by a company that engaged in swindling poor people. The agent also concealed the fact that they must pay monthly interest on the home. The revelation of these facts shatters the family's sense of security and stability.
Death and blood is constant in the stockyards as it is within the Rudkus family. Jurgis father Dede Antanas Rudkus developed a cough while working in the cold and dark cellar of the stockyards. The cough worsened forcing Antanas to spit blood till eventually the old man found himself on his death bed suffering from tuberculosis. Antanas began to hemorrhage from the mouth while experiencing his many coughing fits. Then one morning Antanas was found cold and stiff, he had died lungs filled with blood. The death of his father was painful to Jurgis but not nearly as painful as the death of his wife.
Ona Rudkus was worn out do to malnourishment, harsh work conditions in the stockyards and forced prostitution at the hands of her evil forelady. Also, Ona had developed a cough like the one that killed Antanas. Her pregnancy with the couple's second child was too much for her both physically and mentally. Ona was not under a doctors care when time came for the delivery of the baby, only a hastily called midwife. Ona moaned in agony during the long painful delivery. The midwife did all she could but the delivery was unsuccessful. The baby died and later Ona also past away. The midwife explained to a horrified Jurgis that the baby came with one arm first. The woman was smeared with blood on her hands, arms, face, and clothing. One can compare the woman's appearance to strongly resembling a worker in the killing fields after a long day of all-consuming work. Here, Sinclair suggests in hyperbolic fashion that people die as cattle die in the bloody stockyards.
After the loss of his wife, child, and unborn child, Yurgis finds himself vulnerable, desperate, and morally degraded. But he stumbles upon a way to fight back, a way to rise up against his oppressors. Yurgis discovers an alternative political system called Socialism. Locally, the mission of Socialism is to teach and organize against the stockyard owners. On a wider scale, the mission of Socialism is to break down the class structure in society and distribute the wealth amongst the masses. Yurgis now has a cause, he now has a purpose in life but most of all he has something he can offer to his Socialist comrades. For Yurgis has the ability to share his detailed knowledge of the health atrocities being committed in the stockyards by the packers. He can enlighten others that the nation is being endangered by the very food that is intended to nourish. Meat produced in the stockyards is a metaphorical poison. Yurgis newfound political persuasion of Socialism offers a metaphorical salvation to him, other workers, and to society as a whole.