is a 1906 novel written by journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...
Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. , was an American author who wrote close to one hundred books in many genres. He achieved popularity in the first half of the twentieth century, acquiring particular fame for his classic muckraking novel, The Jungle . It exposed conditions in the U.S...
. Sinclair wrote the novel with the intention of portraying the life of the immigrant in the United States, but readers were more concerned with the large portion of the book pertaining to the corruption of the American
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
meatpacking industry during the early-20th century, and the book is now often interpreted and taught as a journalist's exposure of the poor health conditions in this industry. The novel depicts in harsh tones poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...
, absence of social programs, unpleasant living and working conditions, and hopelessness prevalent among the working class, which is contrasted with the deeply-rooted corruption
Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by...
on the part of those in power. Sinclair's observations of the state of turn-of-the-century labor were placed front and center for the American public to see, suggesting that something needed to be changed to get rid of American wage slavery
Wage slavery refers to a situation where a person's livelihood depends on wages, especially when the dependence is total and immediate. It is a negatively connoted term used to draw an analogy between slavery and wage labor, and to highlight similarities between owning and employing a person...
The novel was first published in serial form in 1905 in the socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason. It was based on undercover work done in 1904: Sinclair spent seven weeks gathering information while working incognito in the meatpacking plants of the Chicago stockyards at the behest of the magazine's publishers. He then started looking for a publisher who would be willing to print it in book form. After five rejections by publishers who found it too shocking for publication, he funded the first printing himself. A shortened version of the novel was published by Doubleday, Page & Company on February 28, 1906 and has been in print ever since.
An extended family of 12 immigrates from Lithuania to the United States, settling in Chicago. From the beginning, they have to make compromises and concessions to survive. Due partly to illiteracy in English, they quickly make a series of bad decisions that cause them to go deep into debt and fall prey to con men
A confidence trick is an attempt to defraud a person or group by gaining their confidence. A confidence artist is an individual working alone or in concert with others who exploits characteristics of the human psyche such as dishonesty and honesty, vanity, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility,...
. The most devastating decision comes when, in hopes of owning their own home, the family falls victim to a predatory lending
Predatory lending describes unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices of some lenders during the loan origination process. While there are no legal definitions in the United States for predatory lending, an audit report on predatory lending from the office of inspector general of the FDIC broadly...
scheme that exhausts all their remaining savings on the down-payment for a sub-standard slum house that (by design) they cannot possibly afford. The family is evicted and their money taken, leaving them truly devastated.
The family had formerly envisioned that Jurgis alone would be able to support them in the United States, but one by one, all of them — the women, the young children, and Jurgis's sick father — have to find jobs in order to contribute to the meager family income. As the novel progresses, the jobs and means the family uses to stay alive slowly and inevitably lead to their physical and moral decay.
They faced 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 toward catastrophe. Jurgis Rudkus, the book's main character, is young, strong, and honest, but also naïve and illiterate; this Lithuanian richboy is no match for the powerful forces of American industry 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
A hobo is a term which is often applied to a migratory worker or homeless vagabond, often penniless. The term originated in the Western—probably Northwestern—United States during the last decade of the 19th century. Unlike 'tramps', who work only when they are forced to, and 'bums', who do not...
in rural United States 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 job, 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 union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...
s are the answer to the evils that he, his family and 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.
The book ends with another socialist rally, which comes on the heels of several recent political victories. The speaker encourages his comrades to keep fighting for victories, chanting "Chicago will be ours!"
- Jurgis Rudkus is a strong-willed Lithuanian who wants a better life for his family. He hears about the freedoms of the United States and decides to emigrate. He works hard, knowing that the welfare of his family and friends depends on him.
- Ona Rudkus, a sixteen-year-old, is married to a strong Lithuanian farmer named Jurgis. She had a child named Antanas and heard of the greatness of The United States from her husband, who had never before let her down. Later in the story, while giving birth to her second child, she dies from blood loss.
- Marija Berczynskas, a masculine woman, who is Ona’s cousin, has a dream to marry a musician and tour with him around the United States. After Ona’s death, and Jurgis's abandonment, she gives up and becomes a prostitute to help feed the few children left.
- Elzbieta, Ona’s stepmother, is not very fond of Jurgis. She takes care of the children.
- Grandmother Swan is the only other Lithuanian in the Immigrant section of Chicago and tells Jurgis everything about the people and the house that Jurgis is moving into.
- Dede Antanas, Jurgis’s father, is at a very old age and insists to help Jurgis and the family pay for the house and food, but the working conditions get too hard for him and he dies from a lung infection.
- Bella Szedvilas, a fellow Lithuanian immigrant who owns a deli on Halsted Street
- Edward Marcinkus, a fellow Lithuanian immigrant and a friend of the family
- Tamoszius Kuszleika, a fiddle
The term fiddle may refer to any bowed string musical instrument, most often the violin. It is also a colloquial term for the instrument used by players in all genres, including classical music...
r who, for a while, becomes Marija's fiancé
- Jonas Lukoszas, he is Ona’s blood related brother, he couldn’t take the living conditions and leaves the family and ends up in worse conditions, no one knows if he is dead or alive.
- Stanislovas Lukoszas,a young 13 year old boy, he is Elizibetas last son, he works in one of Durhams factories and get locked in after falling asleep, and gets eaten alive by rats.
- Mike Scully (originally Tom Cassidy), the Democratic Party "boss" of the yards (and indirectly responsible for Jurgis's suffering)
- Phil Connor,a boss at the factory where Ona works. He is attacked by Jurgis after raping Ona.
- Miss Henderson, Ona's superintendent at the wrapping-room and Connor's former mistress
- Antanas, a small boy,otherwise known as “baby” Antanas Rudkus and Jurgis and Ona’s only son, as a toddler, he falls off an elevated sidewalk and drowns in a deep mud puddle.
- Vilimas and Nikalojus, two of Elzbieta's other children
- Kristoforas, a crippled son of Elzbieta
- Juozapas, another crippled son of Elzbieta
- Kotrina, Elzbieta's daughter
- Judge Pat Callahan, a crooked, xenophobic judge who sentences Jurgis to jail time after he beats Connor
- Jack Duane, a thief that Jurgis meets in prison, he later introduces Jurgis to Chicago's criminal world.
- Madame Haupt, a midwife who is unable to save Ona's life
- Freddie Jones, the son of a wealthy beef baron who, in a drunken stupor, brings Jurgis to his mansion for food and drink, and who gives Jurgis a $100 bill
- Buck Halloran, an Irish "political worker" who oversees vote-buying operations
- Bush Harper, a man who works for Mike Scully as a union spy
- Ostrinski, a Polish immigrant. A socialist
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...
, he befriends Jurgis and teaches him the tenets of socialism, and how it can overcome the evils of capitalist society.
- Tommy Hind, the socialist owner of Hind's Hotel. He employs Jurgis and encourages him to tell his story of working in the packing plants to guests.
- Mr. Lucas, a socialist pastor and itinerant preacher
- Nicholas Schliemann, a Swedish philosopher and socialist
- Durham a business man, he is Jurgis’s first employer and takes immigrants and gives them low paying jobs where most of them die because of the horrible working conditions.
Public and federal response
Upton Sinclair originally intended to expose "the inferno of exploitation [of the typical American factory worker at the turn of the 20th Century]," but the reading public instead fixated on food safety as the novel's most pressing issue. In fact, Sinclair bitterly admitted his celebrity rose, "not because the public cared anything about the workers, but simply because the public did not want to eat tubercular beef".
Sinclair's account of workers falling into rendering tanks and being ground, along with animal parts, into "Durham's Pure Leaf 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.
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...
considered Sinclair a "crackpot" and wrote to William Allen White
William Allen White was a renowned American newspaper editor, politician, author, and leader of the Progressive movement...
, "I have an utter contempt for him. He is hysterical, unbalanced, and untruthful. Three-fourths of the things he said were absolute falsehoods. For some of the remainder there was only a basis of truth." The President was leery of aligning himself with Sinclair's politics and conclusions in The Jungle, so he sent Labor Commissioner Charles P. Neill
Charles Patrick Neill was an American civil servant who raised in Austin, Texas after his family emigrated from Ireland in 1850. Neill graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1897 with a doctorate in economics and politics. He was appointed the United States Commissioner of Labor in 1906 by...
and social worker James Bronson Reynolds, men whose honesty and reliability he trusted, to Chicago to make surprise visits to meat packing facilities. Despite betrayal of the secret to the meat packers, who worked three shifts a day for three weeks to clean the factories prior to the inspection, Neill and Reynolds were still revolted by the conditions at the factories and at the lack of concern by plant managers. Their oral report to Roosevelt tentatively supported Sinclair, failing only to substantiate the claim of workers falling into rendering vats and being left to be sold as lard. Neill testified before Congress that they had reported only "such things as showed the necessity for legislation" and that he did not think it was also necessary to "praise things where they were worthy of praise." A report by the Bureau of Animal Industry
The Bureau of Animal Industry was an organization that was established in the United States Department of Agriculture by an act on May 29, 1884...
rejected Sinclair's severest allegations, characterizing them as "intentionally misleading and false," "willful and deliberate misrepresentations of fact," and "utter absurdity."
Roosevelt, not in favor of the heavy regulation the public outcry would have caused, did not release the findings of the Neill-Reynolds Report for publication. Instead, he helped the issue by dropping hints from the report, alluding to disgusting conditions and inadequate inspection measures. Public pressure led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act
The Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 was a United States Congress Act that worked to prevent adulterated or misbranded meat and meat products from being sold as food and to ensure that meat and meat products are slaughtered and processed under sanitary conditions. These requirements also apply...
and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which established the Bureau of Chemistry that would become the Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments...
Sinclair rejected the legislation, as he viewed it as an unjustified boon to large meat packers partially because the U.S., rather than the packers, was to bear the costs of inspection at $30,000,000 a year. He famously noted the limited effect of his book by stating, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."
- 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
The Brass Check is a muckraking exposé of American journalism by Upton Sinclair published in 1919. It focuses mainly on newspapers and the Associated Press wire service, along with a few magazines. Other critiques of the press had appeared, but Sinclair reached a wider audience with his personal...
, 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 Heralds publisher killed the story before publication.
- The Jungle, available at Internet Archive
The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge". It offers permanent storage and access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, music, moving images, and nearly 3 million public domain books. The Internet Archive...
(scanned books first edition) (plain text and HTML)
- The Jungle available in Audiobook through Lit2Go: An online service of Florida's Educational Technology Clearinghouse via University of South Florida.
- The Jungle serialized in The Sun newspaper from the Florida Digital Newspaper Library
The Florida Digital Newspaper Library provides access to the news and history of Florida through local Florida newspapers. The Florida Digital Newspaper Library is supported by the University of Florida's George A...
- "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 SparkNotes.com
- Upton Sinclair: The Lithuanian Jungle, Giedrius Subacius, 2006, ISBN, identifies many of the actual Chicago locations mentioned in the novel
- Slate.com article: Welcome to The Jungle - Does Upton Sinclair's famous novel hold up? http://www.slate.com/id/2144898
- Mother Jones Magazine article marking the anniversary http://www.motherjones.com/arts/books/2006/01/the_jungle_at_100.html
- USA Today reviews a new biography of Upton Sinclair http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/reviews/-radical-innocent_x.htm
The Public Broadcasting Service is an American non-profit public broadcasting television network with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia....
special report marking the 100th anniversary of the novel http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/features/jan-june06/jungle_5-10.html * Northwestern University
Northwestern University is a private research university in Evanston and Chicago, Illinois, USA. Northwestern has eleven undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools offering 124 undergraduate degrees and 145 graduate and professional degrees....
's Medill School of Journalism
The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications is a constituent school of Northwestern University which offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. It has consistently been one of the top-ranked schools in Journalism in the United States...
revisits The Jungle http://mesh.medill.northwestern.edu/mnschicago/archives/2006/02/jungle_upton_si.html