Socialism and Upton Sinclair's The Jungle

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Socialism and Upton Sinclair's The Jungle

In 1906, Upton Sinclair's Book The Jungle was published in book form; it had previously been published as a newspaper serial in 1905. Few works of literature have changed history in the United States so much as The Jungle did when it was published. It has been said that the book led to the direct passage of the "Pure Food and Drug Act" of 1906 (Dickstein) and that it lead to a decades long decline in meat consumption is the United States.

The book is set in the early 1900's in Chicago; a time when true industrialization had come to the United States, and immigrant populations soared (numbersusa.com). The story begins with the traditional Lithuanian wedding of Jurgis and his sixteen year old bride, Ona. The wedding is one that they can barely afford, and sets the backdrop for the changes that they are just beginning to encounter in their new country. Immigrants with peasant backgrounds had begun to arrive in the United States en masse during the late 1890's from places such as Ireland, Poland, Italy, and Lithuania (numbersusa.com). These people were ill equipped to deal with the harsh realities of urban living in America at the time. In his book Sinclair shows how capitalism creates pressures that undermine the traditional family life, cultural ties, and moral values that these immigrants had brought with them. With "literally not a month's wages between them and starvation" workingmen are under pressure to abandon their families, woman must sometimes choose between starvation and prostitution. Children are forced to work rather then attend school, just to keep starvation away for one more day.
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