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The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition (1906)

by Upton Sinclair

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1,969367,205 (3.73)10
The horrifying conditions in the meatpacking industry in the early 1900's are revealed through the experiences of immigrants as they try to make a living by working in the Chicago stockyards.
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Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
America was a different place in 1906 when Upton Sinclair published The Jungle. Teddy Roosevelt was President. The country was coming out of the Gilded Age capitalism into a new progressive era. Monopolistic trusts dominated the economy. Society resembled more of a two-class system and lacked a dominant middle class. Writing fiction, only realistically like a journalist, Sinclair showed how hard working class life was. A quick bestseller, this book led to national reforms, particularly in the meat-packing industry.

The protagonist Jurgis immigrated to Chicago from Lithuania. After moving, his family quickly fell into poverty. He worked as a meat packer, but seemed utterly unable to overcome the obstacles in front of him. His family fell into disrepair, too, and encountered death, prostitution, and drugs. Sinclair aptly named this book after the urban jungle that this family was trapped in.

The book ended in a jeremiad about the virtues of socialism. These opinions seem irrelevant and naive to twenty-first-century life, but are historically useful to understand the society and psychology of the time. No virtuous path to middle class life existed for this family. Understanding this points to its modern-day pertinence: People do desperate things (like Jurgis and his family did) when their lives lack economic stability. This lesson can explain some contemporary politics.

Though a fantastic success and insightful about American life in the early 1900s, this book has some shortcomings. In an instance of racism of the times, blacks were wrongly denigrated as an inferior race. The jeremiad ending the book seemed unnecessarily preachy. The answers to the problems were reductionistic as economics was portrayed as a catch-all solution.

Still, the historical value of this account remains. Working class life is accurately portrayed in a manner that resonated with the people of the time. Poverty and corruption – both in business and in politics – take center stage. These problems remain today. I hope that society has come closer to lasting solutions, but it is good sometimes to remember what going backwards can quickly turn into. ( )
  scottjpearson | Mar 30, 2022 |
Some books are pleasures, some are works of stunning artistic beauty. Some are tools, like a cookbook, or the Bible, or Atlas Shrugged. This book is a tool, meant to instruct people about capitalism and socialism.

And is it just me, or does anyone else think that Sinclair was being disingenuous when he said “I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach?” It's kind of like saying, "SEX!!! Now that I've got your attention..."

Full disclosure, too...I made it over halfway through the audiobook version, then resumed with the graphic novel version. Plus I don't eat meat. ( )
  FinallyJones | Nov 17, 2021 |
This is a horror masterpiece. Horror because it was real and because it is real.

Read for provoking thoughts on
-poverty
-immigrants/the masses
-politics (the boss!)
-employment
-oppression
-& socialism

But, I would add, that I don't think it presents the right solution on the surface. I think it proposes the easy solution. And the easy solution never works. It's been tried.
But, if you look a little deeper, it poses a good solution. Not a political movement, but community support and care. A sense of belonging, of contributing, of a higher purpose than just the daily grind. And it's hard for people living hand to mouth to ever find that. Trust me, I kinda know.

Books to be read in tandem with this: Fast Food Nation, The Home We Build Together & Lost Connections.
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
This is one of a handful of books I've read multiple times. And not because of the fascinating, detailed descriptions of the slaughterhouse, but because of the story of Jurgis Rudkus, an immigrant, his wife, Ona, and their family living in Chicago. ( )
  Jinjer | Jul 19, 2021 |
This book makes me appreciate not living through those times. It's horrific all that they went through. They try and try and try and just end up more impoverished. This story is about an immigrant family moving to Chicago after the Industrial Revolution. Factories were where most found work. This is also the story of the infamous Chicago Meatpacking Industry. It's gross. The conditions are horrific. There were no laws to protect workers or assistance for the sick or injured. People died all the time. It was a grim existence. Families came to America to work for a better life and worked themselves to death literally in just a few short years or months. ( )
  ToniFGMAMTC | Feb 17, 2021 |
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The horrifying conditions in the meatpacking industry in the early 1900's are revealed through the experiences of immigrants as they try to make a living by working in the Chicago stockyards.

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