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The Jungle



Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is a vivid portrait of life and death in a turn-of-the-century American meat-packing factory. A grim indictment that led to government regulations of the food industry, it is Sinclair's extraordinary contribution to literature and social reform. For those who think this book is not fit for high school reading because it's "gross, boring and hard to read," please take a moment to think. This is one of the most impactful books on American history after Appeal to Reason by Thomas Paine (for those who think that I forgot Uncle Tom's Cabin, that had no direct effect on the abolition of slavery. It, along with Bleeding Kansas, John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry, Senator Brook's attack on Sumner in Congress, the election of Abraham Lincoln, and numerous other events that led up to the secession of seven states and the form of the Confederacy ultimately leading to the Civil War.) This actually brought a direct reform on the meat packing industry. Also you must remember that you did not have a piece of contaminated meat before you opened this book and started reading. I'd bet you would be somewhat more interested in the book if you did. And of course it's going to be gross, how else are you supposed to rouse the public to action? Bottom line, it is a vital piece of history that needs to be appreciated and understood.--Submitted by John Kean

I remember reading this book as a summer assignment when I was in elementary school some 40 years ago. It was so informative and lifelike since I lived in Chicago and was very familiar with the Stockyards of Chicago. Children need to read more books of this nature so they can realize what history our cities have.--Submitted by Here In DC

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair was one of the most important books I ever read while growing up as a young man. I happened upon it at that point in time when my individuality was beginning to manifest itself as well as my awareness that there are responsibilities attendant upon each of us as men and women who have been given the gift of life – if we wish to use it wisely and die proudly having done all we can do to make the world better for all we knew, loved and leave behind as well as who are to follow.

Sinclair is the type of man that I would have loved – had I been there with him at the time he lived. Here was a man who had the intelligence to see the human condition not from just the standpoint of a his own selfish ego – which certainly was the norm of the day – but from the overall perspective of how his actions impacted and affected all around him.

Thus, the horror, the degradation and the despicable wanton manifestations of human depravity he found operating at all levels and permeating the Chicago stockyards and the cesspool of evil it was in terms of the unrestrained abuse and use of other humans for the profit of cold hearted “bosses” was both riveting and enraging for me.

The hero of the novel – Gurgis – was like any young man who had decided to immigrate to America at that time full of hopes and dreams for a better life; a young man who was honest and willing to work and who was only looking for a chance.

What he found and what became of him suffice it to say was not what he sought.

Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in the hope of turning the country from capitalism to socialism, believing as many did at that time that capitalism was evil and that socialism – was the answer. Little did he realize that he was a misguided in his thinking as the most avaricious capitalist he might portray in his novel, that the problem was not the ‘ism” but rather “what evil lurks in the hearts of men” and …”only when men change will kingdoms change.”

Nevertheless, The Jungle stands as one of the true classics of American literature; a book that was written from the heart, accurately portrayed its subject and made you connect with the hearts and souls of his book’s characters.

It is a monumental work that anyone who calls themselves an “educated” man or woman should read. I hope you will take the time to do so; you will be a better person for it.--Submitted by Michael Samsara

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Recent Forum Posts on The Jungle

help on the Jungle Upton Sinclair

Hello everyone I am reading the Jungle and have not yet finished reading it I still have a long way to go and its due next week. I am reading this because a have to do a book review and one thing I must include in my assignment is an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the book, the outstanding ideas, theories, arguments, or qualities of the book, and I must support my analysis with examples from the book. Could any one PLEASE help? :idea::rolleyes5:

The Jungle

You now know why we have real estate laws, labor laws, and why the USDA has grown to what it is now. It is amazing how some things are the same within the business. Of course there have been large changes but in many ways things are the same. All forms of government if done properly should work. Capitolism should work, Socialism should work, but none work like they should. There is a greed factor that takes over and it does not matter what form of government is in charge. Some of the people running the government will be greedy, dishonest, and motivated by self interest. I enjoyed The Jungle. Life is not a bed of roses for many people. The book shows how much harder things were then in comparison to now.

The Jungle Help.

I have an essay test coming up. I read this book, but it was very hard for me to understand. My teacher gave me the main points that the essay is going to be over. I was just wondering if any of you kind people here can help me out on these. The 3 points are the following: 1) Why did Upton Sinclair write this book? 2) What was he trying to prove? 3) What arguments about American society is he making and how?

Brief Thoughts

I tried reading The Jungle on my own as a self-propelled venture to explore the greatest or most important novels of the 20th Century. Now, I found this book in a book store, and was intrigued by what I read about it from other sources. (Internet, the always trustworthy quotes on the ostentatious special anniversary sleeve, etc.) It wasn't until I actually tried reading it, it was then that I had passed the figurative event horizon: I got caught in the maelstrom and lost the Falconer. (Purely puerile melodrama... ^_^) Anyways... I was surprised, unpleasantly, to find no dialogue in this book. I found myself reading through the first chapters actually waiting for the characters to develop themselves, and not have Upton tell me about them, or infer or interpret their actions and feelings, etc for me. (First rule of writing: Trust in your work, trust in your readers.) I found there to be no way to attenuate my ennui from having my hand held throughout the story of jejune characters and their sub-standard living and working conditions, save the occasional tour through the slaughterhouse. But even that was absent of lyrical and rhetoric minutaie that could have captured my interest and sustained me long enough to finish this whole story. And it's a little frustrating when the author insists on telling you "You can't help but humanize these pigs." I'm pretty sure that we could have done that ourselves, without your sprinkling your metaphor cliffnotes. (PS: The addition of Cliffnotes, or explanation of your own works is what lowered the initial intrinsic value of T.S. Eliot's Wasteland. But that was before Upton's time, so it's not HIS fault.) To all those that perpetuate the "historical significance" of this book: WE GET IT! But believe me, this is no "Uncle Tom's Cabin." (And even that was a gross over-exaggration used to blanket a finite dissection of Pharisee-esque and, as far as economic afairs are concerned, irrational Southern slave owners.) I do agree that everyone in high school should read this, if not for anything but to prove that you can write something so artless and jejune containing nothing more than puerilely acerbic glutting and still be considered a great success and important figure in the history of the great benefit of future American generations. (At this point I would like to point out that I have said the previous statement with a facetious undertone. I'm not sure if you could tell, but if you liked this book and found it helpful throughout the book, then: Your welcome! ^_^) To summarize, reading this book was like watching a cheap horror movie that was a collaborated attempt by both Michael Moore and Michael Bay: cheap story filled with glutting into the Socialist agenda where you try and look past it for the macabre pot-of-gold at the end of this oil-stain rainbow, but are ultimately disappointed when you realize that there is as much substance to this story as any Michael Bay or Michael Moore film, and definitely worth only a minute fraction of the amount of time you would spend watching either of their films. IF you do happen to enjoy either of those ingenuous Pharisees, then you will definitely love this book. You've been warned. PS: If you do want to see a movie with the same Socialist propoganda, but with alot better gore, watch George Romero's Land of the Dead. Slightly more entertaining.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

What are 3 or more unfortunate events after the wedding that alter Jurgis' conviction? (Hint: Why does he end up an elevator operator?)

Bored by the book?

“The Jungle” is an amazing book, and should be mandatory reading for all American’s! To the posters here who disliked the book or found it boring, I say – read it again! And think about it this time (as in, with the radio off). I was riveted by the book from the second I picked it up!! Imagine taking several pages to describe a musician and his troupe, and describing the wedding so completely that you could hear the instruments feverishly pounding out their tunes and smell the sweat of the dancers and feel the closeness as the packed room pulsed with life and drunkenness and sound! Boring!? Boy, I bet you’re the life of a party. The life of Jurgis and his friends should be thoroughly understood and appreciated by all who venture off to a demanding day in the office, an 8 hour shift of factory work, or a sleep inducing afternoon of school. Everyone should read and understand the unbearable suffering, inhuman physical demands and depths of depression that Jurgis and his family lived, in order to fully appreciate the life they live today. Much as a weekend of camping can make you relish a long hot shower (you do camp, don’t you?) or a night in a real bed, the story of this Lithuanian family’s dreams and subsequent struggles of a brutal and unforgiving reality should cause everyone in this great country to take less for granted and find more joy and reward in the simple things of everyday life. Walk into any grocer’s produce section and feast at the bounty! Treat your eyes to the freshness, the color, the variety, the sheer volume of food! Walk to the meat section, and I’ll bet you a hefty sum you will not for a second think of where the meat comes from or the people who make it possible, or whether it is safe to eat. Fill your carts with foods necessary or decadent, nutritious or not, common or exotic - then return to your climate controlled home to prepare one of 3 or 4 meals you will probably eat that day. When the sun goes down, flip a switch and continue whatever you are doing in 100 watt sunlight. Do it to music, or to your favorite television show. (probably something irreverent to the very fabric of the society that provides this wonderful existence to you). Then, when you are completely relaxed and only slightly spent, climb between the covers of your overstuffed bed for a cozy night of comfortable, warm, dry, dream-filled, life-restoring sleep. Leave home the next morning, fed and showered and dressed in the cleanest of popular fashion, secure in the knowledge that wherever you go, and whatever you do, your safety and security will be assured. On the road when hunger strikes? Ample food is rarely more than a mile away. Need to relieve? There’s hardly a place in America that you can’t use a flush toilet just for the asking. Getting tired? Look for the nearest hotel and cuddle up to a good book or a movie. Getting the sniffles? Doctors and pharmacies are 24 hours a day, and can’t refuse your basic health care. Hurt on the job? You are set for life. Injured at school or in a restaurant? 1-800-dial-a-lawyer is waiting to hear form you. Nothing could be better today than to be a victim. We live to be victims. We breed more victims. To be a victim today is to reap the true rewards of this generous nation Find a roach in your hamburger and you’ve really got it made! So this cuddled, coddled, pampered, ease of existence you live is generations away from Jurgis and his family’s struggles, right? Tell me….what are you willing to do to eat? What are you willing to do to protect a loved one? What injustices will you endure or insults will you accept? What lengths are you wiling to go to in order to survive? And at what cost? Will you steal? Would you kill? Where are your values when you are sorely tested? Don’t laugh. American society is alarmingly close to an every-man-for-himself mentality and a survival-of-the-fittest reversion to times even more deprived than those described in Sinclair’s book. Think it can’t happen? How many days’ worth of food do you think are on your favorite store’s shelves? In the warehouses? How many days would it take for your city to run out of food if the trucks stopped running? Look around you. Half the world is living like that right now. There is not a third-world country where the kids aren’t scavenging the garbage dumps right now. Millions of people live in sub-human conditions. Millions more are starving. Thousands won’t see the sun come up tomorrow. And it could happen again in this country! What will you do when the 3rd world comes knocking at your door? And they are armed? And they want what you have? Better read the book, and get a dose of reality. Search your soul and develop some character. It will do us all some good.

Shocking but Insightful

This is the first time I read The Jungle from start to finish (having to read an excerpt in 9th grade) and I have to say, this is a pretty good book IF you understand it. I thought the ending was a bit dragging as Sinclair went off talking about Socialism, on and on and on, but overall, this was one book that really got me thinking. I am now reading SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser (because i have to write a paper discussing the two books O_o) which has some similar themes of class and socialism/capitalism. For all of you guys that said this book was gross....yea it is. But that's what really makes this book impackful. Sinclair wrote in a way that will shock readers and grab their attention. In other words, he's saying "HEY WORLD! PAY ATTENTION! ACKNOWLEDGE IT AND TAKE ACTION" Some of the horrors in the story might be exageratted a little but overall, these stories are true. And they happened. Just because it is gross doesn't mean that we should disregard them. We need to be aware of them. It took be forever to go through the book because i had to keep going back and reread portions of it. I still don't get some parts because this isn't an easy book. For those who read the book and only got from it a story of a struggling man and his family in a capitalist country, i don't think you might have missed some stuff. Sinclair is an obvious pro for Socialism because of his strong spokesmen-like beliefs for the rights of a working man. But I really think that if you dig deeper into the story, you will get so much more from the story. =D

Significance overlooked

I find it rather saddening that most who post regarding this book view it as "gross" or "boring". In stating so they have completely missed the point. At the time of it's publication both food safety standards and safe working conditions were in a deplorable state. One post said that Sinclair's work was better left to reporters, but these were precisely the type of stories that reporters would not tell. This was due to the fact that the newspapers were owned by the same industrial magnates who did not wish to be forced to implement rational standards on thier industries. Muckrakers like Sinclair exposed the wickedness of the industrial machine and led to reform at great personal risk to themselves. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for our safe food and safe working conditions.

No Subject

I personally believe that The Jungle is a stirring piece of persuasive political literature, that you must have a brillant mind to read and comprehend. Many of my peers didn't enjoy this book, but I found it quite a moving novel, which forced me to look at the Capitalistic system in America. Without Sinclair's brave novel, we would still be eating infested meats, and wouldn't understand the joy and pain, and just blatant ignorrance of American Capitalism.


This book has to be one of the worst I've read! I can't stay with it, it's so graphic and horrible - and it's extremely boring. Highschool students shouldn't have to read this book!!!

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