Upton Sinclair's The Jungle

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After spending months in the stockyards to study their abhorrent conditions, Upton Sinclair penned The Jungle, his most popular work, which depicts an immigrant family and the hardships they face upon moving to America. Over the course of the novel, the protagonist Jurgis Rudkus slowly loses his faith in the American dream and subsequently becomes a socialist. This blatant political bias is often cited as justification for banning it throughout the world. However, despite many criticizing its push for socialism and lack of artistry, the novel has significance in upper-level classrooms as it possesses literary merit and significance in historical and real world contexts. The Jungle has spurred controversy since its release due to its socialist…show more content…
The book is undoubtedly most known for exposing the meat industry as endangering the American populace, bringing food inspection to the “forefront of American consciousness”, and leading to the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act (Lerner). This is undoubtedly noteworthy- after all, it is the first exposé on the food industry and the well-deserved reason why the novel is so frequently mentioned in history textbooks. However, the true purpose of The Jungle is to serve as a “round of ammunition in the battle for social justice” and advocate the use of “individual progress put to use for the common good”, making it an important criticism of capitalism and a part of the Progressive Era (Napierkowski & Stanley). Because it exposes injustices which America has yet to remedy, there is relevancy to the text and, therefore, a need to read it in classrooms. The reformist nature of the times is effectively captured through Sinclair’s descriptions of the meatpacking industry and its unfair treatment of workers in a dramatized way that differentiates it from other muckraker texts (Bielakowski). It documents America’s industrial and immigrant experience through Jurgis and his family, like the incredibly low wages to the hazardous conditions in the factories, while also calling for social welfare and unionization. Considering the highly competitive economic society that has persisted, and still persists, The Jungle has yet to lose its
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