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The Jungle:

City Labor for Children

Another aspect of child labor was the practice of selling newspapers in cities. In The Jungle, when the family falls into further debt, three more children are extricated from their education and sent to the city seeking work. First, two boys, "Vilimas" and "Nikalojus," ages ten and eleven, respectively, emerge into the vast, unknown city to find jobs. After two weeks, the children become accustomed to the work of selling newspapers, described below:

"leaving home at four o'clock in the morning, and running about the streets, first with morning papers and then with evening, they might come home late at night with twenty or thirty cents apiece-possibly as much as forty cents." (28)

Although the nature of this work is greatly different from factory work, the children must undergo the same mindless activity for even more extensive periods of time. The children endure physical and mental deterioration from such unskilled labor and also moral deterioration induced by their experiences in the harsh, cold city:

"quite without knowing it, they [i.e. the boys] were taking on the tone of their new environment. They were learning to swear in voluble English; they were learning to pick up cigarette stumps and smoke them, to pass hours of their time gambling with pennies and dice and cigarette cards; they were learning the location of all the houses of prostitution on the "Levee," and the names of the "madames" who kept them...And worse yet, the boys were getting out of the habit of coming home at night. What was the use, they would ask, of wasting time and energy and a possible carfare riding out to the stockyards every night when the weather was pleasant and they could crawl under a truck or into an empty doorway and sleep exactly as well?" (29)

The atmosphere and experiences to which the boys are exposed in working cause them to develop differently than the atmosphere and experiences of their traditional family home. Their exposure to the city raises the children with a decayed sense of morality, another ugly condition of child labor.

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