Thomas's Reviews > The Jungle

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
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bookshelves: historical-fiction, read-for-college

Even teachers get things wrong. I remember throughout middle school and high school learning about The Jungle as the book intended to expose the American meatpacking industry. And while it did to that, Upton Sinclair's mission - which I discussed quite a bit in my Social Protest Literature course - centered more on exposing the evils of capitalism. The public's reception of The Jungle exemplifies the doctrine of unintended consequences, as Sinclair himself writes "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."

The book itself does a great job of criticizing capitalism. We follow Jurgis and his family - immigrants from Lithuania - as they struggle in horrifying and disastrous ways to live the American dream. Sinclair hits us over and over with all the ways in which capitalism dehumanizes us, pits us against one another, and precludes any type of moral upward mobility. Perhaps Sinclair's book did not achieve its expected goal because of Sinclair's unrelenting and somewhat bombastic prose. The public may have internalized the grossness of his descriptions of the meatpacking industry instead of Sinclair's more overarching indictment of capitalism.

Overall, a worthwhile read for those interested in investigative fiction or books aimed to generate social protest. Not the most subtle or stylistically-sophisticated book by any means, but one that remains relevant in regard to writing and activism.
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Reading Progress

October 20, 2015 – Started Reading
November 1, 2015 – Finished Reading
November 25, 2015 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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Matthew Great review - when I got to the end of the book I was surprised to discover that it was basically an advertisement for socialism. It was almost humorous in its transparency as propaganda instead of just socially conscious fiction.


message 2: by Lisa (new)

Lisa M. Wow, a Social Protest Literature course - I would love to take a class like that! You must have enjoyed it.


Thomas Lisa wrote: "Wow, a Social Protest Literature course - I would love to take a class like that! You must have enjoyed it."

Yes, I am still currently enrolled in it and it is fabulous! The professor is super intelligent and kind, and our discussions are so relevant (both fortunately and unfortunately) to events taking place today.

Matthew wrote: "Great review - when I got to the end of the book I was surprised to discover that it was basically an advertisement for socialism. It was almost humorous in its transparency as propaganda instead o..."

Agreed, Matthew! By the end you could tell Upton Sinclair had little care for subtlety in getting favoritism toward socialism across, which makes the book's impact (or lack thereof) even more ironic. Thanks for commenting.


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