The Meatpacking Industry In Upton Sinclair's The Jungle

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he early twentieth century was a wild, wild time – though we can 't immediately think of a time in American history that has been calm. Still, even by rowdy American standards, the first few years of the last century were crazy. Upton Sinclair was lucky enough to ride this wave of national dissatisfaction with the status quo straight to literary success. His novel The Jungle, an exposé of the meatpacking industry, became an enormous bestseller translated into seventeen languages within weeks of its publication in 1906. But while The Jungle has long been associated with food production (and its disgustingness), the book is actually a much broader critique of early twentieth-century business and labor practices in the rapidly growing cities of the United States.

By the time The Jungle was published at the turn of the century, the massive flow of poorer European immigrants into the United States over the previous half-century had changed the demographics of American cities. Many of these immigrants lived in overcrowded, run-down tenement buildings with no access to clean water or proper sewage systems (source). Having come to
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Thanks to Sinclair 's hard work, we no longer have to eat sausage that includes bits of meat scraped from the drainage hole in the factory floor (we hope). Sinclair became part of a generation of what are known as muckraker journalists – people who worked hard to uncover social problems and to educate the public. You can read more about other writer-activists like Upton Sinclair in our Shmoop US History Learning Guide on Muckrakers & Reformers of the Progressive Era. It 's through the organization and activism of independent journalists like Sinclair that tons of labor and consumer protection laws first guaranteed Americans the quality of life we currently

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