Thesis: The Jungle and McTeague are both novels about urban sprawl and the reaching of its characters toward the concept of “civilization” in the cities of Chicago and San Francisco, respectively. As its characters grope toward civilization, the systemic poverty of these cities—made manifest through the frequent and increasing deaths of both novels, each caused to some degree by poverty—force Jurgis and McTeague to become ever more brutish and animalistic until they are forced to dead ends, economically and literally.
- Animal motifs in the anger and sexual attraction of both characters
- Sexual attraction (McTeague in Trina’s bedroom)
- Jurgis’ proximity to dead meat – desensitization to death
- Death of Kristoferos
- Senselessness of outbursts (Ona’s death, McTeague’s fight with Marcus, etc.)
- Glimmers of reason
- “You can’t make small of me!”
- Glimmers of reason
- Immigrant experience of Jurgis is more damning as a “foreign species” in the “jungle” of Chicago
- McTeague is the “native” character, yet is foreign to the familial affection and social niceties of Trina’s family
- The asocial is animal
- By this logic—is Jurgis’ decision to cut himself off from his clan a dehumanization, or a salvation of what humanity remains? What “life”, if any, is he left with?
Stefanie — I can see a tightly focused and highly provocative essay developed from this outline: “Desensitization: From McTeague to The Jungle.” This (rather than urban sprawl) seems to be your true subject: the imperceptible and inexorable ways by which a human being can become indifferent to the sufferings of others. We see an extreme example in McTeague, able to beat Trina to death, undeterred by her very visible and vocal pain. And we see an unextreme, indeed all-too-common example in Jurgis, dumbed by the work conditions in the stockyards, and caring less and less for the sufferings of little Stanislovas and the rest of the family. Following this analytic arc — from McTeague’s pathology to Jurgis’s “normality” — should lead to a stunning essay. — wd
While I really love the outline you’ve posted, I would agree with the Professor that desensitization rather than urban sprawl seems to be a clearer focus so far. It would be much easier, in my mind, to put a section about animal outbursts into a paper on desensitization and the ‘loss of the human’ quality of our main characters, instead of an essay on sprawl (which you might find, well, sprawling). Additionally, the sections you’ve got here already lend themselves to the outsider’s perspective on society, which is something that many of our main characters’ share at this point. I’m looking forward to reading it! – Callie