A Cry for Deliverance

1270 Words6 Pages
When Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle was published in February 1906, it provoked outrage among the American public and prompted much needed legislative reform within America’s meatpacking industry. Responding to public pressure, President Theodore Roosevelt launched a government investigation. The ensuing report, “Conditions in the Chicago Stock Yards,” confirmed many of Sinclair’s accusations and quickly led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. However, the legislation “contained no labor protection whatsoever” and it ignored the “‘workingmen of America’ to whom [Sinclair] had dedicated his novel” (Phelps 14). Bemoaning the book’s limited success, Sinclair stated, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach” (3). It would seem, then, that Sinclair perceived his novel to be a failure. But, what had he hoped to accomplish? In his introduction to The Jungle, Christopher Phelps explains that Sinclair “intended the novel not merely as a catalyst for reform but as a trumpet call for the social imagination” (1). In other words, Sinclair wrote The Jungle to expose the social inequity inherent within a capitalist society and rather than reform a single industry, Sinclair sought to revolutionize a nation. Specifically, he wanted to call attention to the working conditions of the labored class and advocated socialism as a viable solution for the nation’s ills (15). While the story effectively communicated Sinclair’s purpose, the title did not. The book’s title, although an apt metaphor to express the doctrine of natural selection, “conveyed his view that capitalist society, by favoring profits over people, had reverted to a raw state of nature,” but it failed to advance ... ... middle of paper ... ...e sway of oppression” (351). Finally, it is reasonable to conclude that Sinclair may have also recognized the need for a new title. Prior to converting the 1905 serial version of The Jungle into its present and most recognizable form, he removed “almost every overt ‘jungle’ metaphor” (Phelps x). If given the opportunity, would Sinclair have changed the title? One could reasonably conclude he would. Works Cited Phelps, Christopher. “Upton Sinclair and the Social Novel.” Introduction. The Jungle. By Upton Sinclair. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005. 1-39. Print. The Bedford Series in History and Culture. ---. Preface. The Jungle. By Upton Sinclair. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005. vii-xii. Print. The Bedford Series in History and Culture Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005. Print. The Bedford Series in History and Culture.
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