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Upton Sinclair's novel, The Jungle

Upton Sinclair's novel, The Jungle, originally serialized in 1905 and published as a book the next year, was the single most notable work from the age of "Muckraking" progressive journalism in the early years of this century. Although presented in the form of a novel, its intent was essentially journalistic; it is a rather thinly fictionalized account of conditions among immigrant workers in the Chicago meat packing industry just after the turn of the century.

The storm of public reaction which followed the publication of The Jungle, with its revelations of shockingly unsanitary conditions in the packing houses, was directly responsible for the enactment of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 (Sinclair, 1981, p. v). It must be recognized that Sinclair's actual intent in writing the book was much more sweeping than to call for stricter standards for the inspection of meat. Upton Sinclair was a socialist, and the intent of the book was to make a general indictment of corporate capitalism.

Sinclair's focus was only incidentally on abuses peculiar to the meat-packing industry, and in the course of it, he calls attention to a broad range of the working and living conditions to which immigrants and other workers were subjected at the time. It was, however, the sanitary abuses which most immediately captured public attention; for example, rotten pork was ground up and mixed into "good" meat in sufficiently small quantities as not to call attention to itself by its odor (Sinclair, 1981, p. 134). Sinclair might well have been disappointed to see the legislative response to his book be one that concentrated more on protecting consumers (and therefore, indirectly, the credibility of the industry itself) than on protecting workers.

Nevertheless, in spite of the limited scope of the Pure Food and Drug Act, The Jungle did contribute more broadly to the generation of public support for the broad range of regulatory measures regar...

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Upton Sinclair's novel, The Jungle. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 11:43, March 31, 2020, from