Upton Sinclair

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Upton Sinclair’S Cry For Socialist Reform In His Novel, The Jungle Essay, Research Paper Upton Sinclair’s Cry for Socialist Reform in his Novel, The Jungle The Jungle is usually associated with the federal legislation it provoked. Americans were horrified to learn about the terrible sanitation under which their meat products were packed. They were even more horrified to learn that the labels listing the ingredients in tinned meat products were full of lies. The revelation that rotten and diseased meat was sold without a single consideration for public health infuriated the American public. They consumed meat containing the ground remains of poisoned rats and sometimes unfortunate workers who fell into the machinery for grinding meat and producing lard. Within months of

The Jungle’s publication, the sale of meat products dropped dramatically. The public outcry of indignation led to the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, less than a year after the novel’s publication (Harris 81). However, contrary to what many people believe, Sinclair did not write The Jungle to incite the American government into regulating the sanitation of the meat packing industry. The details regarding the unsanitary and disgusting conditions in meat packing factories are background details of a much larger picture. Sinclair wrote his novel to provoke outrage over our country’s apathetic attitude toward the miserable working conditions of industrial wage labor by big business profiteers. He detailed the lack of sanitation in the factories in order to provoke

sympathy and outrage for the impoverished factory workers. The germs and disease inside the meat packing establishments were indeed a public health concern, but it was far more of a concern for the workers. “The horrors in the packing plants that Upton described in the nauseating detail were almost endless. The hogs that arrived already dead of cholera and tubercular steers were processed and sold for human consumption” (Harris 73). Inevitably, Sinclair wrote his novel as an appeal to Socialism, because democracy failed to neither protect families and community values nor prevent the exploitation of wage labor from the hands of industry. The novel follows Jurgis’s Lithuanian immigrant family into the disgusting tenements and meat packing factories of Chicago. There, they

suffer the loss of all their dreams of success and freedom in America. They find themselves leashed to the grinding poverty and misery of the city slums despite all their best efforts. Sinclair’s purpose is to display the evils of capitalism as an economic system. “…had given to the thought to a struggle by the America’s working class to free themselves from their enslavement under capitalism, and to the creating of a new and classless society controlled collectively by all the people in their self interest” (Harris 57). Sinclair was bemused by the public reaction to his phenomenally successful novel. “He said that he had aimed for America’s heart, but had ended by hitting it in the stomach” (Harris 82). The novel opens with a Lithuanian custom, the veselija, a

wedding celebration. However, Sinclair emphasizes that the foreign custom demonstrates that the immigrants share a great many social values. The central values expressed in the veselija are family, community, and charity. According to custom, the community shares in the expense of the celebration and donates money to help the new couple start out in life. The celebration is an expression of commitment to community as well as to the institution of marriage. However, the young people are losing their commitment to the culture of the old world. They attempt to appear as assimilated as possible. In their assimilation to American culture, they become the primary predators at the celebration. They are the ones who largely avoid sharing in the cost of the veselija. Moreover, the saloon