Check Your Understanding

Keep in mind that the meat-packing industry the narrator describes did not have the regulations that are in place today. The author uses descriptive details to help the reader visualize the horrors of the factory life and the challenges the immigrant workers faced. Provide textual details to show how workers reacted to the conditions at the factory.

The text shows that the narrator is pointing out conditions of the factory that were unsuitable for workers and eventually led to the workers giving up in a variety of ways. Possible annotations may include, but are not limited to the following: from paragraph 4, “in a single day, three men fell dead from sunstroke,” “The men who worked on the killing beds would come to reek with foulness, so that you could smell one of them fifty feet away; there was simply no such thing as keeping decent, the most careful man gave it up in the end, and wallowed in uncleanness.”

Highlight three or four images that stand out for you in the excerpt. How might these images be symbolic, or serve to stand for larger ideas or concepts? How do these images contribute to a larger message? Annotate to explain your ideas.

The images show not only the ugliness of the city versus the countryside, but also create a feeling of desolation as well as chaos. The raw blood, the flies, and the hideous landscape may symbolize the way the workers are dehumanized and can never escape. The visions of the country symbolize the fantasy of American life that these immigrants will never know. Possible annotations may include, but are limited to the following images: (paragraph 1) “deafening confusion”; (paragraph 2) “one uninterrupted row of wretched two-story frame buildings”; (paragraph 3) “the fields were grown parched and yellow, the landscape hideous and bare”; (paragraph 4) “the men ate as much raw blood as food at dinnertime,” “a veritable Egyptian plague of flies”; (paragraph 5) “visions of green and mountains and sparkling lakes.” These symbolic images contribute to a larger message about the workers’ lives not being valued.

How does the narrator function as a tool to communicate a political message, or theme, about this industry? Highlight textual details, including descriptions of of the city, the factories, and the working conditions. Add an annotation that states the theme, in a complete sentence, based on the text evidence you have highlighted.

The working conditions of immigrant workers in Chicago’s stockyards offer an example of how industrialization is destroying humanity. Annotations should include descriptions of helplessness such as the overwhelming size of the city and the buildings in paragraphs 1 and 2, the smell and darkness described in paragraph 3, the filth and flies in paragraph 4, and the contrast between the workers and the managers. The author is using the narrator as a tool to raise awareness, sound an alarm, and change these conditions for the better.

Highlight one example from the text of figurative language and one example of language that has positive connotations. Identify your examples and explain how they help the reader better understand the conditions the factory workers endured at that time.

Highlight this simile from paragraph 4: “they were as helpless as newly born babes in that respect” Possible annotation: The use of the word as to make the comparison between the workers and newly born babes shows that the text is a simile. It helps the reader understand the helplessness of the workers in the face of these conditions. Highlight this example of personification from paragraph 5: “The great packing machine ground on remorselessly, without thinking of green fields.” Possible annotation: The text gives the machine human qualities, such as the capability of being remorseful, and the ability to think. This helps the reader understand how important the machine has come and that it rules our lives, much like a ruler would. Highlight example of positive connotation from paragraph 5: “green fields.” Possible annotation: The color “green” is made equivalent to clean, fresh, natural, or humane.

Think about the excerpt’s narration, details, and theme. Which details does the author use that elicit compassion and empathy from you as a reader? Highlight evidence from the text that will help support your view.

The author elicits compassion and empathy for these workers by helping the reader to feel what these workers feel. Answers will vary, but highlighted text might include the following text from paragraph 4: “and it may seem like a small matter, but when the sweat began to run down their necks and tickle them, or a fly to bother them, it was a torture like being burned alive.” From paragraph 5: “Perhaps this was due to the repulsiveness of the work; at any rate, the people who worked with their hands were a class apart, and were made to feel it.” The author also addresses the reader directly: “Perhaps the summertime suggests to you thoughts of the country,” and then explaining how the worker’s experience is completely different. The author takes relatable experiences–being annoyed, feeling left out, having an expectation–and shows how these are part of the workers’ every moment.