The Jungle

Infobox Book |
name = The Jungle

image_caption =
author = Upton Sinclair
country = United States
language = English
genre = Political fiction
publisher = Doubleday, Jabber & Company
release_date = February 28, 1906
media_type = Print (Hardcover)
pages =
isbn = Released before ISBN system implemented

"The Jungle" is a 1906 novel written by author and socialist journalist Upton Sinclair. It was written about the corruption of the American meatpacking industry during the early 20th century. The novel depicts in harsh tones the poverty, absence of social programs, unpleasant living and working conditions, and hopelessness prevalent among the "have-nots", which is contrasted with the deeply rooted corruption on the part of the "haves". The sad state of turn-of-the-century labor is placed front and center for the American public to see, suggesting that something needed to be changed to get rid of American "wage slavery".Young, "The Pig That Fell into the Privy," p. 467] The novel is also an important example of the "muckraking" tradition begun by journalists such as Jacob Riis. Sinclair wanted to persuade his readers that the mainstream American political parties offered little means for progressive change.

Upton Sinclair came to Chicago with the intent of writing this novel; he had been given a stipend by the socialist newspaper "The Appeal to Reason". Upon his arrival in the lobby of the Chicago Transit House, a hotel near the stockyards, he was quoted as saying, "Hello! I'm Upton Sinclair, and I'm here to write the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" of the Labor Movement!" (Arthur, 43). He rented living quarters and immediately immersed himself in the city by walking its streets, talking to its people, and taking pictures. One Sunday afternoon, he worked his way into a group of Lithuanian immigrants getting together for a wedding party – "Behold, there was the opening scene of my story, a gift from the gods". He was welcomed to the festivities and stayed until two o'clock in the morning. [Upton Sinclair, "Is "The Jungle" true?", "The Independent", May 17, 1906 – as quoted and cited in: Giedrius Subačius (2006), "Upton Sinclair: The Lithuanian Jungle". Rodopi, ISBN 9042018798.]

The novel was first published in serial form in 1906 by "The Appeal to Reason". "After five rejections", its first edition as a novel was published by Doubleday, Page & Company on February 28,1906, and it became an immediate bestseller. It has been in print ever since.

=Public and federal response =

Although Sinclair originally intended to focus on industrial labor and working conditions, food safety became the most pressing issue. Sinclair's account of workers' falling into rendering tanks and being ground, along with animal parts, into "Durham's Pure Beef Lard", gripped public attention. The morbidity of the working conditions, as well as the exploitation of children and women alike that Sinclair exposed showed the corruption taking place inside the meat packing factories. Foreign sales of American meat fell by one-half. In order to calm public outrage and demonstrate the cleanliness of their meat, the major meat packers lobbied the Federal government to pass legislation paying for additional inspection and certification of meat packaged in the United States. " [ Of Meat and Myth] ," Lawrence W. Reed, The Freeman, November 1994 ] Their efforts, coupled with the public outcry, led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which established the Food and Drug Administration.

Although the meatpackers lobbied the government for legislation, they did not welcome regulations. Sinclair and President Theodore Roosevelt were both integral to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Roosevelt was sent multiple copies of "The Jungle", including one by Sinclair himself, prompting his curiosity about meat inspection, but not much else. After much persuasion from Sinclair as to the seriousness of the situation, Roosevelt agreed to send two men to investigate Sinclair's claims. The men the president chose, Charles P. Neill and James B. Reynolds, had both done investigative work for Roosevelt before, and were thought trustworthy. Sinclair wanted Roosevelt to send his inspectors into the factories so they could see how poorly the workers were being treated; he wanted the nation to become better educated on the issue of "wage slavery". Instead of acknowledging the poor conditions and inhumane treatment of the workers, the men reported only on the cleanliness, or lack thereof, in these packing factories.

Even though the meat packers had forewarning and time to clean up, the conditions Neill and Reynolds observed were described as "revolting". The only claim in Sinclair's work which they failed to substantiate was that workers who had fallen into rendering vats were left and sold as lard. Roosevelt was so concerned about the impact of Neill and Reynold's report on western stock growers and European meat importers that he did not release the findings for publication. Instead, he helped the issue by dropping hints from the report, alluding to disgusting conditions and inadequate inspection measures. This pressure was adequate, although the bill that was finally passed did not include dating cans of meat or charging the packers for inspection costs. [Young, "The Pig That Fell into the Privy," p. 467-480] Sinclair rejected the legislation, as he viewed it as an unjustified boon to large meat packers partially because the U.S. was to bear the costs of inspection at $3,000,000 a year. [Young, "The Pig That Fell into the Privy," p. 477] Upton Sinclair, "The Condemned-Meat Industry: A Reply to Mr. M. Cohn Armour", "Everybody's Magazine", XIV, 1906, pp. 612-613 ] He famously noted the limited effect of his book (which led to meat packing regulations, but not to reform of the wages and living conditions of its workers) by stating, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."

In 1914 the All Star Features Corp. produced the silent film 'The Jungle' based on Sinclair's book.

=Plot summary= The novel opens with a dramatic description of a Lithuanian wedding feast, which introduces the reader to all of the major characters — Jurgis Rudkus (originally "Rudkos" [Sinclair, "The Jungle" ISBN 1-884365-30-2, pp i] ), his bride Ona, their extended family and their friends. Nearly every person who has passed by the building has been invited to attend the feast, as was the custom from the old country. The musicians play, the guests dance, food and drink flow freely, but an undercurrent of terror foreshadows what is to come – their generous hospitality has cost them much, but the traditional donations expected of the guests are few in number and small in size.

cquote2|quotetext=Most fearful they are to contemplate, the expenses of this entertainment. They will certainly be over two hundred dollars and maybe three hundred; and three hundred dollars is more than the year's income of many a person in this room. There are able-bodied men here who work from early morning until late at night, in ice-cold cellars with a quarter of an inch of water on the floor—men who for six or seven months in the year never see the sunlight from Sunday afternoon till the next Sunday morning—and who cannot earn three hundred dollars in a year. There are little children here, scarce in their teens, who can hardly see the top of the work benches — whose parents have lied to get them their places — and who do not make the half of three hundred dollars a year, and perhaps not even the third of it. And then to spend such a sum, all in a single day of your life, at a wedding feast! (For obviously it is the same thing, whether you spend it at once for your own wedding, or in a long time, at the weddings of all your friends.) It is very imprudent, it is tragic — but, ah, it is so beautiful! Bit by bit these poor people have given up everything else; but to this they cling with all the power of their souls — they cannot give up the veselija! |personquoted=Upton Sinclair|quotesource="The Jungle", Chapter 1|quotewidth=##px|quoteheight=##px

Lured away from Lithuania by promises of work, the Rudkus family has arrived in the Back of the Yards neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois at the end of the 19th century, only to find that their dreams of a decent life are not likely to be realized. Jurgis has brought his father Antanas, his fiancée Ona, her stepmother Teta Elzbieta, Teta Elzbieta's brother Jonas and her six children, and Ona's cousin Marija Berczynskas come along. From the beginning, they have to make compromises and concessions to survive. They fall prey to con men, and unscrupulous realtors cheat them out of their plans to own a home. The family had envisioned that Jurgis alone would be able to support them, but one by one, all of them — the women, the young children, and Jurgis's sick father — are forced to find jobs and contribute to the meager family income. The reality of having to work in a capitalist society takes a hold of their family as they are forced to succumb to the demands of the upper class. As the novel progresses, the jobs and means the family uses to stay alive lead to their moral decay.

They are faced with a cruel world of work in the Chicago Stockyards, where everyone has his or her price, where everyone in a position of power, including government inspectors, the police and judges, must be paid off, and where blacklisting is common. A series of unfortunate events — accidents at work, a number of deaths in the family that under normal circumstances could have been preventable — leads the family further towards catastrophe. Jurgis Rudkus, the book's main character, is young, strong, and honest, but also naïve and illiterate; this Lithuanian farmboy is no match for the powerful forces of American industrial capitalism, and he gradually loses all hope of succeeding in the New World. After Ona dies in childbirth — for lack of money to pay for a doctor — and their young son drowns in the muddy street, he flees the city in utter despair. At first the mere presence of fresh air is balm to his soul, but his brief sojourn as a hobo in rural America shows him that there is really no escape — even farmers turn their workers away when the harvest is finished.

Jurgis returns to Chicago, and holds down a succession of jobs outside the meat packing industry — digging tunnels, as a political hack, and as a con man — but injuries on the jobs, his past, and his innate sense of personal integrity continue to haunt him, and he drifts without direction. One night, while looking for a warm and dry refuge, he wanders into a lecture being given by a charismatic socialist orator, and finds a sense of community and purpose. Socialism and strong labor unions are the answer to all the evils that he, his family, and all their fellow sufferers have had to endure. A fellow socialist employs him, and he resumes his support of his wife's family, although some of them are damaged beyond repair.

Soon after, the socialist rally is triumphantly chanting "Chicago will be ours!" and Jurgis has caught the eye of a sympathetic young woman.


*Jurgis Rudkus
*Ona Lukoszaite (Ona Lukošaitė)
*Dede Antanas Rudkus (Dėdė Antanas Rudkus)
*Jokubas Szedvilas (Jokūbas Šedvilas)
*Tamoszius Kuszleika (Tamošius Kušleika)

Jungle as metaphor

Upton Sinclair titles his book "The Jungle" to make a specific criticism of the capitalist system. The mechanization of American society was supposed to bring progress and increased order. Sinclair, however, notes that this increased industrialism has had the reverse effect. Sinclair's Packingtown more closely resembles an amoral jungle, or Thomas Hobbes' envisioned "state of nature" — individualistic, ultra-competitive, and amoral. Every man must learn to fight for himself, and the strong constantly prey on the weak. Thus Sinclair contradicts the belief that industrialization and capitalism bring increased order by equating such a reality to that of the jungle. The Jungle is a major critique of laissez-faire capitalism and the greed and fierce competition that it brews.

Using a rain forest as a literary device was not new to literature at the time; its romantic connotations had been explored by Rudyard Kipling in the "Jungle Book" (1894). Mowgli, the hero of these works, is adopted by animals, and thrives with their help. A somewhat darker version of the metaphor was employed by W.H. Hudson in "Green Mansions" (1904), in which Rima, a girl raised in the Amazon, is undone by the sophisticated machinations of her lover and her adoptive father; and by Frank Baum in the first of the "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" novels (1900), wherein the protagonists are terrorized during their passage through a dark forest.

By using the jungle as metaphor, Sinclair suggests that those who attempt to succeed through capitalist means are not "the fittest" but instead are the most corrupt.


*Young, James Harvey, "The Donkey That Fell into the Privy: Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and Meat Inspection Amendments of 1906," "Bulletin of the History of Medicine", 59, 1985, 467-80.
*Arthur, Anthony. "Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair". New York: Random House, 2006.
* In "The Brass Check", Sinclair relates that the "New York Herald" commissioned a follow-up story, "Packingtown a Year Later." The reporters spent two months undercover and found conditions worse than ever; the "Herald"'s publisher killed the story before publication.

=External links= wikiquotepar|The Jungle (novel) wikisourcepar|The Jungle
* [ "The Jungle"] , available at Internet Archive (scanned books first edition)
*gutenberg|no=140|name=The Jungle (plain text and HTML)
* [ "Defense of "The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition"] by novelist Earl Lee
* [ "The Fictitious Suppression of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle,"] by historian Christopher Phelps
* [ "The Jungle"] free literary analysis from
* "Upton Sinclair: The Lithuanian Jungle", Giedrius Subacius, 2006, ISBN , identifies many of the actual Chicago locations mentioned in the novel
* article: "Welcome to The Jungle - Does Upton Sinclair's famous novel hold up?" []
* Mother Jones Magazine article marking the anniversary []
* "USA Today" reviews a new biography of Upton Sinclair []
* PBS special report marking the 100th anniversary of the novel [] * Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism revisits "The Jungle" []

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