An Analysis of Sinclair’s Book the Jungle and its Popularity

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It was the early 1900s, and industrial development was booming. The immigrant population was expanding exponentially because people from a variety of foreign countries were migrating to America. Many settled in and around the areas of Chicago. Immigrants faced intense hardships as newcomers to the country but eventually found work because they accepted little pay. The sanitation and health conditions, and life in general, were extremely poor. Muckrakers began turning their attention to the meatpacking industry beginning in 1905. The Jungle appeared after publication in the Appeal to Reason (a worldwide socialist newspaper) and depicted unsanitary meat packinghouse conditions, in addition to giving proof of the ruthless way in which workers were treated in the factories.

The Jungle was deemed one of the key factors in helping to pass several legislations through time. The Jungle is neither social protest nor naturalistic; rather, its clear purpose is to advocate socialism. American history was impacted by legislation, unsanitary conditions, and socialism because of the public's awareness of the issue of the meat packing industries between 1905 and 1906.

A true product of its time, The Jungle influenced every person who read the book. Commissioned to write the Appeal to Reason, Upton Sinclair deeply influenced society in the 1900s. Sinclair arrived in the industrial slums of the South Side of Chicago. Hello! he announced, striding into the Transit House Hotel at the Union Stock Yards. I am Upton Sinclair, and I have come to write Uncle Tom's Cabin of the labor movement. His goal was to write about the wage slaves of the Beef Trust or, more professionally, Chicago's immigrant packinghouse workers.

This book was written and compiled by Sinclair through interviews with many doctors, bankers, social workers, and even the factory workers themselves. This book had such a powerful impact on American history because it led the public to the truth about how unsanitary the meat they were consuming truly was. The irony in The Jungle is that Sinclair included the horrific details on meat production only in order to reinforce his main theme, the exploitation of immigrant labor and the need for socialism. He did only the opposite. I aimed at the public's heart and accidentally hit it in the stomach. He wanted to demonstrate how ruthless the workers were treated and try to improve their working conditions. He did not intend just to repulse the public with his descriptions of the meat packinghouses.

The novel not only influenced the society that read it but also changed the lifestyle of Sinclair himself for the rest of his life. I went about, white-faced and thin, he later recalled, partly from undernourishment, partly from horror. This book in American history is one classic example of muckraking literature. It is frequently credited with helping to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act. The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 is one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed. It abolished any interstate commerce of misbranded and adulterated food, drinks, or drugs. In addition, it outlined the points that if the laws were broken, criminal justice would be taken.

The Federal Meat and Inspection Act was endorsed and passed in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. This act gave the USDA authority to regulate meat products and the authority to inspect animals destined for interstate commerce.

Prior to the acts, Roosevelt himself had read The Jungle. His reaction was so astounding that most people remember the book just for this one incident. He was at the breakfast table, toying with his meal and turning through the pages of the book. Suddenly he arose from the table and began throwing his sausages out the window. He has since become a vegetarian because of how repulsed he was by the material he had just read. The President was so disgusted by the actions of the meat factories that the federal government assumed absolute responsibility for ensuring the safe and sanitary production of food products. Roosevelt himself told Upton Sinclair that while the novel was in print, the White House was receiving an average of a hundred letters a day demanding that the government take action on Sinclair's writings.

Publication of the novel was a major backbone in the push towards passing the bills for the inspection acts. The President himself was holding back until the book was published, thus acting aggressively, concerned about the images the public would remember of the federal government's irresponsibility. The federal government, prodded by Sinclair's expos, assumed responsibility for ensuring the sanitary production of food products. The government had ignored a major health threat to its citizens.

What outraged Sinclair the most about the stockyards, packing plants, and surrounding neighborhoods were not the unsanitary production conditions and the threat they posed for American consumers but the terrible working conditions in which industry workers and their families lived, worked, and died. Take, for example, Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant and the main character in the novel. Jurgis and his friends were taken advantage of by employers, foremen, police, political bosses, and anyone else who had power in Packingtown, Chicago. Jurgis was not the only immigrant who faced these harsh conditions.

Imagine being packed tightly together on a train bound for the city. The sky would grow darker and darker every minute as you got closer and closer to the smog from the factories. The grass became less and less green as the train sped on, and the air now expressed a strange, pungent odor. This odor turned into thick smog, which made the immigrants feel faint from the smell. Some could almost taste the thick, sickening air. At the end of this nauseating trip, the train would stop, the doors would open, and a voice would shout Stockyards! The immigrants knew they were far from Lithuania.

The Jungle did impact American history, but not in enough ways. As Sinclair said, he really did hit the people in the stomach rather than the heart. He sickened the people by showing them the unsanitary conditions of working places in Packingtown. He failed in his own vision by not being able to reform the conditions for the worker's sake. Safety problems in all packinghouses were an issue even long after the book had been published. On average, 23 accidents would happen each day at any given factory. That is an astronomical figure. The health and safety issues that caused so many women, children, and workingmen to die were overlooked by the public. Impacting society through legislation, unsanitary conditions, and socialism, The Jungle is a true product of the times.

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An Analysis of Sinclair's Book The Jungle and its Popularity. (2023, Mar 07). Retrieved April 22, 2024 , from
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