The Jungle

I just finished this book, the American lit classic by Upton Sinclair. It wasn’t exactly as I thought it would be. All the hype, of course, concerns the “exposure” of the horrific conditions under which meat packers worked (and in which food was produced) during the turn of the century.

I was turned off by the last two or three chapters. It seemed just a huge advertisement for socialism. And not in the sense of working politics into the story, a la George Orwell, but simply of long speeches by Orators that the lead character, Jurgis, was entranced by. There really was no story after his final meeting of Marija; everything from there forward was just speech speech philosophy philosophy.

But the rest of the book is great. To anyone who hasn’t read it I highly recommend it. You can find it new at bookstores for $10 in paperback and it really is a historically important book in American lit. It also is a great read which draws you in; I managed to finish it in just a few nights of reading.

Not sure if I would put it in the most rarefied of air (“classic”), but it’s certainly easy to see how influential the book was, and it’s definitely a page-turner. There are certainly worse ways you could spend your time than reading The Jungle.

Hah! I just finished this a couple weeks ago and had pretty much the same reaction. Though the last few chapters did for the first time make me think “jeeze it’s really to bad this socialism thing just doesn’t work it sounds really spiffy!”

Seriously though I got really angry/sick reading this I was hoping it massively exagerated the conditions those people had to live through but what research I did seems to back most of it up. Also after reading it I thought “Yep Ayn Rands kind of full of shit.”

As I understand it, Sinclair was going to end the book by having Jurgis go out into the country. But then he showed it to Jack London, who was an ardent socialist, and he convinced Sinclair to put the socialist stuff in at the end.

That’s why it feels like it was tacked-on at the end–because it was.


sinclair said something like, “i aimed for their hearts and hit their stomachs”.

I call it a classic because during high school and college, all my American lit (or related) profs included this as an option on their “must read” lists. It isn’t a classic in the sense of PacMan as a classic video game, no. Different type of nostalgia. :P