Rob Atkinson's Reviews > The Jungle

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
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Apr 21, 12

Read from October 29 to November 04, 2011

A very effective and moving novel chronicling the crushing of one immigrant family by the predatory, exploitive environment of untrammelled capitalism in early 20th century Chicago, and an expose of the dangerous, fraudulent, and unsanitary conditions prevelent in the Chicago stockyards, source of much of America's meat. Doubtless a classic, The Jungle is nevertheless a deeply flawed novel. The human story of Jurgen Rudkus and his clan is very compelling, but falls apart towards the end of the novel as Sinclair abruptly removes Jurgen from his family and the yards, and the story devolves into a thinly veiled socialist manifesto. The novel was written as a serial which ran in a Socialist paper of the period; the rather explicit and pedantic exposition at the novel's close, and its implication in Jurgen's epiphany, surely owe something to this, as either Sinclair's native enthusiasm for socialism or editorial pressure wrought a pat and unconvincing, doctrinaire, and simplistic ending to an emotionally rich tale. The first 2/3 of the novel is extraordinary, however, full of heart-wrenching human drama -- though it will occasionally turn the stomach of your average meat eater.
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