Gabriel Rojas’ Long Paper Outline

Gabriel Rojas

Literary Cities



Essay 2 Long Paper Outline

Prisons as areas of liberation and safety in Native Son and The Jungle


  • Topic: American Incarceration through the Works of Richard Wright and Upton Sinclair
  • Thesis: Though incarceration is structured to punish criminals and offenders, both Richard Wright and Upton Sinclair promote the notion that prisons may act as havens for the oppressed and serve as areas of enlightenment. (Note: I may rework the idea of “enlightenment”)
    • Incarceration separates the oppressed from their environment, which thus allows them to think critically and self-analyze in ways that were previously hindered by environment.

Point 1: Brief History of American Incarceration (?)

  • Bring in statistics and highlight the growth of imprisonment in the United States in the past decade
  • Cycles of oppression
    • Targeted as minority and impoverished groups
  • This is done to highlight the importance of the following discussion

Point 2: Jurgis’ Environment; Pre-imprisonment

  • Life working on the stockyards as to highlight the poor living conditions that Jurgis lived in
    • “They don’t waste anything here,” (25)
    • The great corporation which employed you… it was nothing but one gigantic lie,” (55)
    • “now he found that each one of these lesser industries was a separate little inferno,” (71)
    • Gothic imagery throughout the text (75-79)
    • “old Packingtown jest – that they use everything of the pig except the squeal,” (97)
  • The disposability of man
    • “This was called ‘speeding up the gang,’ and if any man could not keep up…” (42)
  • Perceptions of America
    • “When he came home that night he was… for his faith in America,” (47)

Point 3: Bigger’s Environment; Pre-imprisonment

  • Use the opening rat scene as a metaphor for Bigger’s own life—one in fear and trapped by those of (4-6)
  • Bigger’s feeling of oppression brought upon him by white citizens
    • “Suppose a police saw him wandering in a white neighborhood like this? It would be thought that he was trying to rob or rape somebody,” (44)
    • “he was very conscious of his black skin… and men like him had made it so that he would be conscious of that black skin,” (67)
    • Bigger is a victim of circumstance when he himself murders Mary
      • “Hell, she made me do it! I couldn’t help it”
    • “All right. They white folks. They done killed plenty of us,” (178)
  • Consider using more quotes (bookmarked)

Point 4: Jurgis’ Incarceration

  • Jurgis’ assault of Connor (110)
    • Connor’s a criminal that is not brought to justice yet, Jurgis is the one taken to prison
  • Jurgis’ incarcerated protects him from his environment
    • “And the bitter mockery of it – all this was punishment for him!” (115)
    • These midnight hours were fateful ones to Jurgis;… frenzied hate” (116)
  • The mistreatment of Jurgis’ trial
    • He subsided, but he never took his eyes off his enemy…” (120)
  • Jurgis’ freedom from jail
    • “all the dreadful imaginations that had haunted him in his cell now rushed into his mind at once…” (125)
  • Second trial for his “assault” on the bartender.
    • Again, he is not given a fair trial (176-180)
    • Bridewell prison
    • “Doping” prisoners as a way to contain them (184)

Point 5: Bigger’s Incarceration

  • Bigger is imprisoned
    • Highlight the importance of Bigger’s comparison to Jesus, “Two men stretched his arms out, as though about to crucify him,” (270).
  • Bigger’s silence is one of sadness but also of rest
    • “There was no day for him now,… for he knew that hate would not help him,” (273)
  • His desire to read the newspaper is one of self-interest, but also one that displays his separation from his environment. He is now an observer, not an actor. (279- 281)
  • Bigger’s interactions with Reverend Hammond (282)
  • Bigger’s interations with the other man imprisons who “went off his nut from studying too much at the university,” (343).
  • Mistrial (380-430)

Point 6: Changes in Jurgis’ Mentality and Personality

  • It is after Jurgis’ second arrest that he then becomes a criminal by mugging individuals
    • Criminal justice system has created a criminal out of Jurgis?
    • Mentorship of Jack Duane
  • Attacks Connor for one more time (200) but is able to bail himself out with the money he has saved
  • Becomes an active socialist at end of the novel (Chapters 29-31)

Point 7: Changes in Bigger’s Mentality and Personality

  • Bigger continues to battle with his own racism
    • “’She’s the same color as the rest of ‘em,” (351)
  • Bigger speaks about his opinion on racism as a method to suppress African-Americans
    • “The white folks like for us to be religious then they can do what they want to us,’” (356)
  • Critical thought on killing and Bigger’s acceptance after his trial
    • “‘Mr. Max, you go home. I’m all right…” (428).
    • Pages 426-430)
    • “He still held on to the bars. Then he smiled a faint, wry, bitter smile,” (430)

Point 8: Modern Prisons

  • Key differences between modern US prisons and those of the early 20th century
  • The increase in incarcerations
  • Continue to point out those who are prosecuted the most


  • Restate Thesis
  • Final thoughts on the faults of the American prison system
  • Has Chicago’s law and prison systems changed between the turn of then the 20th century (The Jungle) and the 1930s (Native Son)?




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