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The Jungle

Upton Sinclair

Book Overview: 

It is the end of the 19th century. Like thousands of others, the Rudkus family has emigrated from Lithuania to America in search of a better life. As they settle into the Packingtown neighborhood of Chicago, they find their dreams are unlikely to be realized. In fact, just the opposite is quite likely to occur. Jurgis, the main character of the novel, 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 along. The family, naïve to the ways of Chicago, quickly falls prey to con men and makes a series of bad decisions that lead them into wretched poverty and terrible living conditions. All are forced to find jobs in dismal working conditions for their very survival. Jurgis, broken and discouraged, eventually finds solace in the American Socialist movement.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . explanation—that it was against the law for children to work before they were sixteen. What was the sense of that? they asked. They had been thinking of letting little Stanislovas go to work. Well, there was no need to worry, Grandmother Majauszkiene said—the law made no difference except that it forced people to lie about the ages of their children. One would like to know what the lawmakers expected them to do; there were families that had no possible means of support except the children, and the law provided them no other way of getting a living. Very often a man could get no work in Packingtown for months, while a child could go and get a place easily; there was always some new machine, by which the packers could get as much work out of a child as they had been able to get out of a man, and for a third of the pay.

To come back to the house again, it was the woman of the next family that had died. That was after they had been there nearly four ye. . . Read More

Community Reviews

The jungle, Upton Sinclair
The Jungle is a 1906 novel written by the American journalist and novelist Upton Sinclair (1878–1968). Sinclair wrote the novel to portray the harsh conditions and exploited lives of immigrants in the United States in Chicago and similar industrialized cities. His primar...more

“They use everything about the hog except the squeal.”
― Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

One of the great social/protest novels of the 20th Century. 'The Jungle' is at once an indictment on the treatment of immigrants, poverty, American wage slavery, and the working conditions at Chicago's stockyards a...more

Every day in New York they slaughter
four million ducks
five million pigs
and two thousand doves for the pleasure of the dying,
a million cows
a million lambs
and two million roosters,
that leave the sky in splinters.

—Federico García Lorca
I expected to dislike this book, because it is a book aimed at pr...more

Reading The Jungle will have you wringing your fists Upton Sinclair style.

Right up until I read it, The Jungle was one of those books I'd always heard of, but not heard about. I knew it was important, apparently, because everyone said so, but no one said why. (I guess I should have asked.) From...more

Naturally, my high school English teacher felt it necessary to assign "The Jungle" to read over Thanksgiving break. As my Dad carved the turkey, the conversation went something like this:

MOM: Could you pass the turkey?

ME: Oh, yeah, great, why don't we pass the meat that untold numbers of Slavik i...more

if i had the words to describe the horror of reading this book, i'd certainly find a way to put them here. this was a physically challenging read, as it took an epic energy even to continue. All the terrors you've ever heard about what you might find in its pages are absolutely true. the weight o...more

Whenever I've asked someone if they have read The Jungle, and if they have not read it, they always respond, "isn't that about the meat packing industry?". I think that response is exactly what the author was trying to point out is wrong with his society at the time.
It is true that the main char...more

It's been a while since I read it, but I believe this book features a precocious young boy named Mowgli Rudkus who was raised by wolves. After singing a bunch of songs with bears and orangutans in the jungles of India, Mowgli immigrates to turn-of-the-century Chicago where he lives in abject pove...more

(written 6-03)

Wow. Now I can see why this book had such a big impression on those who read it in the early twentieth century. Really heart-wrenching (and gut-wrenching) stuff. There's the famous quote that Sinclair said he aimed for the public's heart and hit it in the stomach instead. I guess pe...more

Introduction, by Ronald Gottesman
Suggestions for Further Reading
A Note on the Text

--The Jungle

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