The novel is best known for exposing the highly unsanitary conditions of the meat packing industry, run by corrupt political machines, as well as the severity and harshness faced by immigrants during this time. However, Sinclair’s true goal was to promote his new-found socialist principles amidst the growing businesses and harsh labor conditions existing to the lower class. The story sets in the city of Chicago, a city with a deep divide between the high and low working class. Although this was evident in many cities across the nation as urban areas continued to grow, Chicago was among the worst. Sinclair was able to take advantage of the struggle of laborers and wrote his story through the eyes of poor Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkus.
The meatpacking district of Chicago in the early 1900’s is where the novel takes place. The main characters in this book are a Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkis, a hardworking strong man out to find the American dream, his wife, and his family who is trying to do the same. After a long journey to America the family arrives in Packingtown, where Jokusbas Szedvilas, a fellow Lithuanian immigrant, introduces them to the filthy stinking part of the city that will now be their home. Jurgis is very eager to get a job and succeeds easily. The family has rented living quarters in the filthy boarding house ran by Anielle Jukniene, but Jurgis and the others want to buy a house.
Several years before and after the turn the turn of the twentieth century, America experienced a large influx of European immigration. These new citizens had come in search of the American dream of success, bolstered by promise of good fortune. Instead they found themselves beaten into failure by American industry. Upton Sinclair wanted to expose the cruelty and heartlessness endured by these ordinary workers. He chose to represent the industrial world through the meatpacking industry, where the rewards of progress were enjoyed only by the privileged, who exploited the powerless masses of workers.
American’s did not always experience this reality in their work places though, and not long past are days of abysmal and disgusting work conditions. In 1906 Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” was published. His novel drastically transformed the way Americans felt about the unmitigated power corporations wielded in the ‘free’ market economy that was heavily propagandized at the turn of the century. Corporations do not have the same unscrupulous practices today because of actions taken by former President Theodore Roosevelt who felt deeply impacted by Sinclair’s famous novel. Back in early 1900’s in the meatpacking plants of Chicago the incarnation of greed ruled over the working man and dictated his role as a simple cog within an enormous insatiable industrial machine.
However, the working and living conditions were hazardous and the pay was barely enough to survive on. This is the bases for Upton Sinclair's book, The Jungle. Sinclair agreed to "investigate working conditions in Chicago's meatpacking plants," for the Socialist journal, Appeal to Reason, in 1904. The Jungle, published in 1906, is Sinclair's most popular and influential work. It is also his first of many "muckraker" pieces.
There were many immigrants during the twentieth century who came into America at that time so that employers could offer wages for unskilled workers who are willing to do miserable jobs like working in the meat packing industry. Sinclair was very plain in describing the nature of the food the Americans were consuming due to the nature of the parking house experience. Sinclair wanted to expose the exploitation of the poor and oppressed in America. His description of contaminated meats drew more attention, where spoiled harms are treated with formaldehydes and sausage made out of rotten meats. His aim of writing the jungle is to introduce the people to socialism because the rich who owned industries are using their wealth to take advantage of the poor citizens.
The Jungle helps us understand the industrial revolution from the personal disadvantaged view of the proletariat. It is an exposé of many ills, including specifically, vile practices of the meat-packing industry. Of his own work, Sinclair reported, ³I wish to frighten the country by a picture of what its industrial masters were doing to their victims; entirely by chance I stumbled on another discovery - what they were doing to the meat supply of the civilized world. In other words, I aimed at the public¹s heart, and by accident, I hit it in the stomach.² This novel by Upton Sinclair is worth reading because it presents the history of turn-of-the-century America from a deeply personal view that goes well beyond events to penetrating comprehension. The study of history offers much more than the memorization of facts and Sinclair¹s The Jungle exemplifies this, through historically-based, dramatized pathos.
With the details of the meatpacking industry, the government investigated and the public cried out in disgust and anger. The novel was responsible for the passage of The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. With the impact that Sinclair must have known this book would have, it is interesting that he also apparently tried to make it fuction as propaganda against capitalism and pro-socialism. Work Cited: Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle.
How The Jungle Influenced Social Reform and Socialism Beginning in the late 19th century, many people became concerned with many social problems resulting from the industrialization period of the United States. People began to demand reform. The writing of the book The Jungleby Upton Sinclair was one of the most influential tools used to reform many American industries. In this book, Sinclair focuses on the unsanitary conditions and corruption that was involved in the Chicago meat packing industry. This book exposed so much information to the public that it even caused new legislation to be passed concerning the matter.