The Jungle is usually associated with the federal legislation it provoked. Americans were horrified to learn about the terrible sanitation under which their meat products were packed. They were even more horrified to learn that the labels listing the ingredients in tinned meat products were full of lies. The revelation that rotten and diseased meat was sold without a single consideration for public health infuriated the American public. They consumed meat containing the ground remains of poisoned rats and sometimes unfortunate workers who fell into the machinery for grinding meat and producing lard. Within months of The Jungle's publication, the sale of meat products dropped dramatically. The public outcry of indignation led to the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, less than a year after the novel's publication (Harris 81).
However, contrary to what many people believe, Sinclair did not write The Jungle to incite the American government into regulating the sanitation of the meat packing industry. The details regarding the unsanitary and disgusting conditions in meat packing factories are background details of a much larger picture. Sinclair wrote his novel to provoke outrage over our country's apathetic attitude toward the miserable working conditions of industrial wage labor by big business profiteers. He detailed the lack of sanitation in the factories in order to provoke sympathy and outrage for the impoverished factory workers. The germs and disease inside the meat packing establishments were indeed a public health concern, but it was far more of a concern for the workers. "The horrors in the packing plants that Upton described in the nauseating de...
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Dembo, L. S. "The Socialist and the Socialite Heroes of Upton Sinclair." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Roger Matuz. Detroit: Gale, 1991. 360-362.
Haris, Leon. Upton Sinclair: American Rebel. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1975.
Rideout, Walter B. "Realism and Revolution." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Roger Matuz. Detroit: Gale, 1991. 349-351.
Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. New York: Buccaneer Books, 1984.
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