The Jungle is a 1906 novel written by the American journalist and
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
primary purpose in describing the meat industry and its working
conditions was to advance socialism in the United States. However,
most readers were more concerned with his exposure of health
violations and unsanitary practices in the American meatpacking
industry during the early 20th century, greatly contributing to a
public outcry which led to reforms including the Meat Inspection Act.
Sinclair famously said of the public reaction, "I aimed at the
public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."
The book depicts working-class poverty, the lack of social supports,
harsh and unpleasant living and working conditions, and a hopelessness
among many workers. These elements are contrasted with the deeply
rooted corruption of people in power. A review by the writer Jack
London called it "the
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin of wage slavery."
Sinclair was considered a muckraker, or journalist who exposed
corruption in government and business. In 1904, Sinclair had spent
seven weeks gathering information while working incognito in the
meatpacking plants of the
Chicago stockyards for the newspaper. He
first published the novel in serial form in 1905 in the Socialist
newspaper Appeal to Reason and it was published as a book by Doubleday
1 Plot summary
3 Publication history
4 Uncensored edition
6 Federal response
8 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
The main character in the book is Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian
immigrant trying to make ends meet in Chicago. The book begins with
his wife Ona and his wedding feast. He and his family live near the
stockyards and meatpacking district, where many immigrants who do not
know much English work. He takes a job at Brown's slaughterhouse.
Rudkus had thought the US would offer more freedom, but he finds
working conditions harsh. He and his young wife struggle to survive.
They fall deeply into debt and are prey to con men. Hoping to buy a
house, they exhaust their savings on the down payment for a
substandard slum house, which they cannot afford. The family is
eventually evicted after their money is taken.
Rudkus had expected to support his wife and other relatives, but
eventually all—the women, children, and his sick father—seek work
to survive. As the novel progresses, the jobs and means the family use
to stay alive slowly lead to their physical and moral decay. Accidents
at work and other events lead the family closer to catastrophe.
Rudkus' father dies as a direct result of the unsafe work conditions
in the meatpacking plant. One of the children, Kristoforas, dies from
food poisoning. Jonas—the other remaining adult male aside from
Rudkus—disappears and is never heard from again. Then an injury
results in Rudkus being fired from the meatpacking plant; he later
takes a job at Durham's fertilizer plant. The family's hardships
accumulate as Ona confesses that her boss, Connor, had raped her, and
made her job dependent on her giving him sexual favors. In revenge,
Rudkus attacks Connor, resulting in his arrest and imprisonment.
After being released from jail, Rudkus finds that his family has been
evicted from their house. He finds them staying in a boarding house,
where Ona is in labor with her second child. She dies in childbirth at
age 18 from blood loss; the infant also dies. Rudkus had lacked the
money for a doctor. Soon after, his first child drowns in a muddy
street. Rudkus leaves the city and takes up drinking. His brief
sojourn as a hobo in the rural United States shows him that no real
escape is available—farmers turn their workers away when the harvest
Rudkus returns to
Chicago and holds down a succession of laboring jobs
and as a con man. He drifts without direction. One night, he wanders
into a lecture being given by a socialist orator, where he finds
community and purpose. After a fellow socialist employs him, Rudkus
locates his wife's family. He finds out that Marija, Ona's cousin, had
become a prostitute to support the family and is now addicted to
morphine; Stanislovas, the oldest of the children at the beginning of
the novel, had died after getting locked in at work and being eaten
alive by rats. Rudkus then resumes his support of his wife's family.
The book ends with another socialist rally, which follows some
Panorama of the beef industry in 1900 by a Chicago-based photographer
Men walking on wooden rails between cattle pens in the Chicago
Workers in the union stockyards
Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian who immigrates to the US and struggles to
support his family.
Ona Lukoszaite Rudkus, Jurgis' teenage wife.
Marija Berczynskas, Ona’s cousin. She dreams of marrying a musician.
After Ona's death and Rudkus' abandonment of the family, she becomes a
prostitute to help feed the few surviving children.
Teta Elzbieta Lukoszaite, Ona’s stepmother. She takes care of the
children and eventually becomes a beggar.
Grandmother Swan, another Lithuanian immigrant.
Dede Antanas, Jurgis' father. He contributes work despite his age and
poor health; dies from a lung infection.
Jokubas Szedvilas, Lithuanian immigrant who owns a deli on Halsted
Edward Marcinkus, Lithuanian immigrant and friend of the family.
Chicago millionaire whose passion is helping poor people in
Tamoszius Kuszleika, a fiddler who becomes Marija's fiancé.
Jonas Lukoszas, Teta Elzbieta's brother. He abandons the family in bad
times and disappears.
Stanislovas Lukoszas, Elzibeta's eldest son; he starts work at 14.
Mike Scully (originally Tom Cassidy), the Democratic Party "boss" of
Phil Connor, a boss at the factory where Ona works. Connor rapes Ona
and forces her into prostitution.
Miss Henderson, Ona's forelady at the wrapping-room.
Antanas, son of Jurgis and Ona, otherwise known as "Baby".
Vilimas and Nikalojus, Elzbieta's second and third sons.
Kristoforas, a crippled son of Elzbieta.
Juozapas, another crippled son of Elzbieta.
Kotrina, Elzbieta's daughter and Ona's half sister.
Judge Pat Callahan, a crooked judge.
Jack Duane, a thief whom Rudkus meets in prison.
Madame Haupt, a midwife hired to help Ona.
Freddie Jones, son of a wealthy beef baron.
Buck Halloran, an Irish "political worker" who oversees vote-buying
Bush Harper, a man who works for Mike Scully as a union spy.
Ostrinski, a Polish immigrant and socialist.
Tommy Hinds, the socialist owner of Hinds's Hotel.
Mr. Lucas, a socialist pastor and itinerant preacher.
Nicholas Schliemann, a Swedish philosopher and socialist.
Durham, a businessman and Jurgis’s second employer.
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United States portal
Chicago meat inspectors in early 1906
Sinclair published the book in serial form between February 25, 1905
and November 4, 1905 in Appeal to Reason, the socialist newspaper that
had supported Sinclair's undercover investigation the previous year.
This investigation had inspired Sinclair to write the novel, but his
efforts to publish the series as a book met with resistance. An
employee at Macmillan wrote,
I advise without hesitation and unreservedly against the publication
of this book which is gloom and horror unrelieved. One feels that what
is at the bottom of his fierceness is not nearly so much desire to
help the poor as hatred of the rich.
Five publishers rejected the work as too shocking. Sinclair was
about to self-publish a shortened version of the novel in a
"Sustainer's Edition" for subscribers when
Doubleday, Page came on
board; on February 28, 1906 the Doubleday edition was published
simultaneously with Sinclair's of 5,000 which appeared under the
imprint of “
The Jungle Publishing Company” with the Socialist
Party’s symbol embossed on the cover, both using the same plates.
In the first 6 weeks, the book sold 25,000 copies. It has been in
print ever since, including four more self-published editions (1920,
1935, 1942, 1945). Sinclair dedicated the book "To the Workingmen
The copyright (in some countries) expired after 100 years, so there is
now (as of March 11, 2006) a free or "public domain" copy of the book
available on the web site of Project Gutenberg.
See Sharp Press published an edition based on the original
The Jungle in Appeal to Reason, which they described
as the "Uncensored Original Edition" as Sinclair intended it. The
foreword and introduction say that the commercial editions were
censored to make their political message acceptable to capitalist
publishers. Others argue that Sinclair had made the revisions
himself to make the novel more accurate and engaging for the reader,
corrected the Lithuanian references, and streamlined to eliminate
boring parts, as Sinclair himself said in letters and his memoir
American Outpost (1932).
Upton Sinclair intended to expose "the inferno of exploitation [of the
typical American factory worker at the turn of the 20th Century]",
but the reading public fixed on food safety as the novel's most
pressing issue. Sinclair admitted his celebrity arose "not because the
public cared anything about the workers, but simply because the public
did not want to eat tubercular beef". Some critics have attributed
this response to the characters, most of whom, including Rudkus, have
unpleasant qualities. The last section, concerning a socialist rally
Rudkus attended, was later disavowed by Sinclair. But his description
of the meatpacking contamination captured readers' attention.
Sinclair's account of workers falling into rendering tanks and being
ground along with animal parts into "Durham's Pure Leaf Lard" gripped
the public. The poor working conditions, and exploitation of children
and women along with men, were taken to expose the corruption in meat
The British politician
Winston Churchill praised the book in a
In 1933, the book became a target of the
Nazi book burnings
Nazi book burnings due to
Sinclair's endorsement of socialism.
Theodore Roosevelt had described Sinclair as a "crackpot"
because of the writer's socialist positions. He wrote privately to
journalist William Allen White, expressing doubts about the accuracy
of Sinclair's claims: "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." After reading The Jungle, Roosevelt agreed
with some of Sinclair's conclusions. The president wrote "radical
action must be taken to do away with the efforts of arrogant and
selfish greed on the part of the capitalist." He assigned the
Charles P. Neill
Charles P. Neill and social worker James Bronson
Reynolds to go to
Chicago to investigate some meat packing facilities.
Learning about the visit, owners had their workers thoroughly clean
the factories prior to the inspection, but Neill and Reynolds were
still revolted by the conditions. Their oral report to Roosevelt
supported much of what Sinclair portrayed in the novel, excepting the
claim of workers falling into rendering vats. Neill testified
before Congress that the men had reported only "such things as showed
the necessity for legislation." That year, the Bureau of Animal
Industry issued a report rejecting Sinclair's most severe allegations,
characterizing them as "intentionally misleading and false", "willful
and deliberate misrepresentations of fact", and "utter absurdity".
Roosevelt did not release the Neill-Reynolds Report for publication.
His administration submitted it directly to Congress on June 4,
1906. Public pressure led to the passage of the Meat Inspection
Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act; the latter established the Bureau
of Chemistry (in 1930 renamed as the Food and Drug Administration).
Sinclair rejected the legislation, which he considered an unjustified
boon to large meat packers. The government (and taxpayers) would bear
the costs of inspection, estimated at $30,000,000 annually. He
complained about the public's misunderstanding of the point of his
Cosmopolitan Magazine in October 1906 by saying, "I aimed at
the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."
A film version of the novel was made in 1914, but it has since been
Labor rights in American meatpacking industry
^ Brinkley, Alan (2010). "17: Industrial Supremacy". The Unfinished
Nation. McGrawHill. ISBN 978-0-07-338552-5.
^ Van Wienen, Mark W. (2012). "American socialist triptych: the
literary-political work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Upton Sinclair,
and W.E.B. Du Bois. n.p.". Book Review Digest Plus (H.W. Wilson).
University of Michigan Press.
^ "Upton Sinclair", Social History (blog) (biography) .
^ Sinclair, Upton, "Note", 'The Jungle, Dover Thrift,
^ Upton Sinclair, Spartacus Educational .
^ Gottesman, Ronald. "Introduction". The Jungle. Penguin
^ a b c Phelps, Christopher. "The Fictitious Suppression of Upton
Sinclair's The Jungle". History News Network. George Mason University.
Retrieved January 20, 2014.
The Jungle and the
Progressive Era The Gilder Lehrman Institute
of American History". www.gilderlehrman.org. 2012-08-28. Retrieved
^ Bloom, Harold, ed. (2002), Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, Infohouse,
pp. 50–51, ISBN 1604138874 .
^ Sinclair, Upton. "The Jungle". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved May 8,
^ Sinclair, Upton (1905). The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition.
Tucson, AZ: See Sharp Press. p. vi. ISBN 1884365302.
^ a b Sullivan, Mark (1996). Our Times. New York: Scribner.
p. 222. ISBN 0-684-81573-7.
^ "Welcome to 'The Jungle'", Slate, July 2006 .
^ Arthur, Anthony (2006), Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair, New York:
Random House, pp. 84–85 .
^ "Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course
Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century". American Library Association.
March 26, 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
^ Oursler, Fulton (1964), Behold This Dreamer!, Boston: Little, Brown,
p. 417 .
^ Roosevelt, Theodore (1951–54) [July 31, 1906], Morison, Elting E,
ed., The Letters, 5, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
p. 340 .
^ "Sinclair, Upton (1878–1968)". Blackwell Reference Online.
Retrieved January 12, 2013.
^ Jacobs, Jane, "Introduction", The Jungle,
ISBN 0-8129-7623-1 .
^ Hearings Before the Committee on Agriculture... on the So-called
"Beveridge Amendment" to the Agricultural Appropriation Bill, U.S.
Congress, House, Committee on Agriculture, 1906, p. 102, 59th
Congress, 1st Session .
^ Hearings Before the Committee on Agriculture... on the So-called
"Beveridge Amendment" to the Agricultural Appropriation Bill, U.S.
Congress, House, Committee on Agriculture, 1906, pp. 346–50,
59th Congress, 1st Session .
^ Roosevelt, Theodore (1906), Conditions in
^ Young, The Pig That Fell into the Privy, p. 477 .
^ Sinclair, Upton (1906), "The Condemned-Meat Industry: A Reply to Mr.
M. Cohn Armour", Everybody's Magazine, XIV, pp. 612–13 .
^ Bloom, Harold. editor, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, Infobase
Publishing, 2002, p. 11
^ "The Jungle". silentera.com.
Bachelder, Chris (January–February 2006). "
The Jungle at 100: Why
the reputation of Upton Sinclair's good book has gone bad". Mother
Lee, Earl. "Defense of The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition".
See Sharp Press.
Øverland, Orm (Fall 2004). "The Jungle: From Lithuanian Peasant to
American Socialist". American Literary Realism. 37 (1): 1–24.
Phelps, Christopher. "The Fictitious Suppression of Upton Sinclair's
The Jungle". hnn.us.
Young, James Harvey (1985). "The Pig That Fell into the Privy: Upton
The Jungle and Meat Inspection Amendments of 1906".
Bulletin of the History of Medicine. 59 (1): 467–480.
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