Connie's Reviews > The Jungle

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
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May 02, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: politics, 1001-books, historical-fiction, food-drinks, illinois

Upton Sinclair's The Jungle shows the plight of poor immigrant workers and the problems of industrialization. Jurgis Rudkus, a strong young Lithuanian, and his extended family came to Chicago in the early 1900s expecting good wages and opportunity. Instead of the American Dream, they found poverty and terrible working conditions, causing many to die. The meatpacking plants and the factories were run by corrupt owners who underpaid the workers and exposed them to unhealthy conditions. After many tragic events, Jurgis hears a Socialist speaker and feels that Socialism will be a solution to their problems.

The author had worked undercover at a Chicago meatpacking plant in 1904. Although Sinclair had written the book to build support for the Socialist movement and show the harsh treatment of the workers, it was the depiction of the meatpacking plant that shocked the public. This led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, and established the Bureau of Chemistry which became the Food and Drug Administration in 1930. The details of the meatpacking process were so revolting that I would not eat sausage for years after reading this book the first time in high school. The book is still topical today as we read about E. coli in our beef, pink slime additives to our ground meat, and other things tainting our food supply.

This book was very effective because it portrayed a hardworking family that could barely stay alive. They were ground down both physically and emotionally, with some of them turning to unsavory ways to get enough money to buy food. Sinclair's graphic descriptions were important in alerting the public to the problems of industrialization.
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