The Jungle

The Jungle


Upton Sinclair

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The Jungle Study Guide

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Historical Context of The Jungle

The Jungle's horrifying revelations of unsanitary practices in the meatpacking industry scandalized the public and spurred the passage of two pieces of legislation: the U.S. Pure Food and Drug Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act, both passed in 1906. These regulatory acts were precursors for the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Other Books Related to The Jungle

The Jungle is one of the best-known examples of muckraking journalism, a turn-of-the-century genre of works that aimed to expose underlying ills in society. The muckraking tradition was influenced by Jacob Riis's How the Other Half Lives (1890), a photojournalistic chronicle of the dangerous slums that housed immigrants in New York City. Building on Riis's work, Lincoln Steffens's muckraking classic, The Shame of the Cities (1904), offered a condemnation of the public's role in sustaining corrupt business and politics. Another seminal muckraking work is History of the Standard Oil Company by Ida Tarbell (1904), which detailed the workings of John D. Rockefeller's oil empire to highlight its unethical practices.
Key Facts about The Jungle
  • Full Title: The Jungle
  • When Written: 1906
  • Where Written: Chicago, Illinois
  • When Published: 1906, serialized version first published in 1905.
  • Literary Period: Muckraking journalism
  • Genre: Muckraking journalism/historical fiction
  • Setting: "Packingtown," the miserable community of immigrant laborers near Chicago's industrial meatpacking area.
  • Climax: The book's very last line, in which an ambitious socialist speaker yells, "Chicago will be ours!" following a surprisingly strong showing in an election.
  • Antagonist: Capitalist corruption, as embodied by Phil Connor.
  • Point of View: Omniscient third-person narrator.

Extra Credit for The Jungle

Eat Your Heart Out. While The Jungle was designed to elicit compassion for poor immigrant laborers in the United States, the book's most viscerally provocative element was its lurid description of the meatpacking industry's unhygienic practices. As a result, two pieces of legislation, U.S. Pure Food and Drug Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act, were passed in 1906 to assuage Americans' newfound concerns about the safety of their food. Surprised and somewhat disgruntled by the public's priorities for reform, Sinclair remarked, "I aimed at the public's heart and by accident I hit it in the stomach."

Don't Get Cocky. Sinclair's fervent idealism likely interfered with his more practical ambitions. In 1933, while he was still campaigning for governor of California, he published the boldly-titled book, I, Governor of California And How I Ended Poverty: A True Story of the Future. After a loss in the general gubernatorial election deflated his hubris, Sinclair published another book: I, Candidate for Governor and How I Got Licked.