Heidi's Reviews > The Jungle

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
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really liked it

Whenever I've asked someone if they have read The Jungle, and if they have not read it, they always respond, "isn't that about the meat packing industry?". I think that response is exactly what the author was trying to point out is wrong with his society at the time.
It is true that the main character of the book at one point goes to work in a meat packing plant, and its disgusting, and when the book was published apparently the FDA was created as a result, or something. The problem is, though, that this book is not about the meat packing industry- the book is about the plight of a poor immigrant family in Chicago, and about the plight of poor people in the country in general at that time. Sinclair is trying to bring light to the disgusting ways in which people in his time were forced to live, the way they were manipulated, ripped off, neglected and sometime even killed by the very community that profited from their cheap labor. Its an incredible book, and if you read it keep in mind that the atrocities that really occur in this book surround the way that these people were held down no matter what they did. I think that Upton Sinclair would be saddened to know, and maybe he did know, that the only thing that changed as a result of this beautifully written pro-socialist novel is that the middle class now has healthy meat products.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 2004 – Finished Reading
June 14, 2008 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-31 of 31 (31 new)

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message 1: by Don Incognito (new)

Don Incognito I like sad stories so much that I am willing to cheerfully ignore the crude political agitprop at the end, and to forgive Sinclair for including it.


conrad pro-socialist? I question that.


message 3: by Don Incognito (new)

Don Incognito Most of it *is* just a story, but the ending absolutely is explicitly socialist. It's a political statement.


Taylor I'd, not to be a nuisance, like to say that my totally positive rating . on this review was a complete accident which the site wouldn't allow me to retract. I thought the story itself was great but the pro-socialist pamphlet that makes up the last sixty-five pages or so was a chore and not something that I found agreeable


message 5: by Don Incognito (last edited Aug 24, 2009 12:44PM) (new)

Don Incognito I hated it too, but I like sad stories so much that
the rest of the novel leads me to completely forgive the agitprop.


conrad that was a bit tongue in cheek.
I will say however, that the faults of capitalism, the faults of socialism, the faults of fascism and communism, these pale in comparison with the faults of human nature. Personally, my vote is for capitalism. Does it succeed? Maybe not, but the corruption of a system cannot be mistaken for the system itself.



message 7: by Don Incognito (last edited Aug 29, 2009 01:29PM) (new)

Don Incognito Agreed, sir. I haven't read The Wealth of Nations yet (it's on my 2010 reading list) but I'm all the more eager to, because I want to know whether Adam Smith foresaw any of the perfidy of capitalists; whether he foresaw robber barons, conglomerates, a garbage-truck magnate crushing someone's scrotum for doing business with the competition, or Dennis Koslowski.


conrad I avoid nonfiction for the most part, I try but my brain just wanders. Books like the Fountainhead and the Jungle are as close as I get


Kyle Healthy meat products? I question that.


message 10: by Don Incognito (new)

Don Incognito Fish?


message 11: by Jakob (new) - added it

Jakob The omnovore's dilemma by Michael Pollan shows that the meat in today's America may be technically clean but only in the sense that you could call something taken from a sick animal (due to an unnatural diet and lack of clean air) and been irradiated clean...


message 12: by Chet (new) - rated it 2 stars

Chet Someone can use wikipedia. Nice.


message 13: by Chelle Folts (last edited Feb 11, 2013 07:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chelle Folts No such thing as healthy meat coming from factory farms. Nothing has improved in the quality of the meat, the treatment of the animals or the safety for the workers. Incredibly sad state.


message 14: by Beelake (new)

Beelake Well said, what I took away from the book was a mans struggle to never let down his family, and even after he failed, the grudge that he held out weighed all rational thought, I took away the fact that no matter what the wrongs that are done to you, subconsciously you always are willing to try and right them no matter what the cost. Good read!


Jessica I wouldn't call our meat products healthy. Less gross, maybe, but that's not really saying much.
Your review is dead on, other than that, though.


Jkhstanley I couldn't agree more!


Sydney I agree, especially the part about how awful the workers get treated!


message 18: by Mkw (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mkw I thouroughly enjoyed the book and my heart aches for Jurgis and his family, as well as the others that acutally lived through it, as your review points out. However, I also agree with the other comments about the socialism advertisment at the end - that was the only part of the book that I will not read again.


David Scheffner socialism was and is a valid economic ideal and i agree it is sad that the only thing people understand is the atrocities of meat packing industry. the proletariat is still being manipulated and used.


message 20: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Peterson It's not just pure food laws that have changed things drastically in our country over the past century plus. We have OSHA, minimum wages, truth in lending laws, etc, etc, etc, that have removed most, if not all, of the pitfalls this poor, ignorant family so tragically suffered. In general I think we've gone too far with regulation and government intrusion in our lives, but this book and others like it serve to remind me why we have all this bureaucracy in the first place.


message 21: by erl (new) - rated it 5 stars

erl No question Upton Sinclair was a Socialist. He ran on a socialist ticket in California.


message 22: by erl (new) - rated it 5 stars

erl No question Upton Sinclair was a Socialist. He ran on a socialist ticket in California.


message 23: by Robin (new) - added it

Robin Khan Excellent review. Cheers.


message 24: by Beverly (last edited May 23, 2016 08:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Beverly When I first read this in high school, I was really hung up on the pre-FDA food processing aspect. However, I do recall, the core of the book was really about working class living conditions, lack of labor laws and consumer protection regulations at the turn of the 20th century.

Who cares if Sinclair was a socialist? He was able to instigate desperately needed changes simply by writing about it. Out of the thousands of books I've read, this is one of the few that I would classify as life-changing.


message 25: by Robin (new) - added it

Robin Khan David wrote: "socialism was and is a valid economic ideal and i agree it is sad that the only thing people understand is the atrocities of meat packing industry. the proletariat is still being manipulated and used." Exactly.


message 26: by Robin (new) - added it

Robin Khan Beverly wrote: "When I first read this in high school, I was really hung up on the pre-FDA food processing aspect. However, I do recall, the core of the book was really about working class living conditions, lack ..." And we plebs are still being sodded with :)


message 27: by Rosemary (new) - added it

Rosemary Sinclair Lewis said of this book, "I aimed at the public's heart and by accident hit it in the stomach."


Tricia Chambers Actually, Sinclair was trying to point out the multitude of ways the working class got the shaft.


message 29: by Robin (new) - added it

Robin Khan The saddest part is that not much has changed around the world. The working class still get stuffed. The time will come...


message 30: by H. (new) - rated it 4 stars

H. Fish, not much better. Don't go near the Tilapia, Don.


message 31: by Yourstruly (new) - added it

Yourstruly Meat products in the US are extremely unhealthy to this day. Animals are fed GMO grain, pumped full of hormones so they grow faster and can be slaughtered quicker, and dangerous chemicals are added to prolong the shelf life of the dead meat once the docile animals are done with their inhumane suffering. Immigrant workers still compromise most of the animal agriculture industrial machine and are treated horribly and payed poorly. Perhaps your teachers assign this book during Americas meat eating holiday to make you think on your own away from school and look beyond the book.


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