The jungle

by Upton Sinclair

Paper Book, 2005


Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML: Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is a novel portraying the corruption of the American meat industry in the early part of the twentieth century. The dismal living and working conditions and sense of hopelessness prevalent among the impoverished workers is compared to the corruption of the rich. Upton aimed to make such "wage slavery" issues center-stage in the minds of the American public. Despite already being serialized, it was rejected as a novel five times before being published in 1906, when it quickly became a bestseller..



Call number



New York, NY : Barnes & Noble Classics, 2005.

User reviews

LibraryThing member RebeccaAnn
Every once in a while, you read a book that makes you look back and reevaluate your life. For me, that book is The Jungle.

It was absolutely heart wrenching following Jurgis Rudkus, the main character, and his constant failed attempts to provide for his family. An immigrant from Lithuania, he came
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to America to strike it rich and marry Ona, the girl of his dreams. They, along with ten other members of their family, go to the stockyards of Chicago where they have heard that jobs are available for everyone.

What they didn't know is they would have to work fourteen hour days under horrible conditions to make enough to barely survive.

It's amazing how spoiled today's society is. I could never handle this type of work. The difference between now and a hundred years ago is staggering to behold. When reading The Jungle, it is obvious to the reader the luxuries available to them that were inconceivable back then.

And the losses that Jurgis had to cope with! He survived as he watched member after member of his family die. You see him at his strongest, his weakest, his cruelest. You are there, pitying him when he is forced to sleep under cars in the dead of winter and you are there, cursing him as he allows himself get sucked into the system, making his living off of the misery of others when he becomes a boss at one of the stockyards. You see how the misery finally trumps even the strongest soul. Every man has a breaking point, a point where he will do anything to survive.

Apart from being a real eye opener, Sinclair's prose is amazing. His descriptions of events and sights put you right in the middle of Chicago's stockyards. I didn't even notice when paragraphs went on for more than a page because I was so involved with every single sentence. The book opens with a wedding feast and you can smell the food and hear the laughter and music and see the couples dancing. When Jurgis first sees the inside of a stockyard, you are right there, witnessing the horrible sight. It's extremely powerful.

I usually never give a book five stars because so few are really, truly good. However, I don't think I could give The Jungle anything but five stars. This book makes me wish there was an option for a sixth star.
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LibraryThing member silva_44
I don't know that I have ever encountered a book that was so emotionally difficult to read. From the moment that I was introduced to Jurgis and Ona, I shared their plight, and even experienced nightmares about the deprivation which they experienced. Upton Sinclair based this book on factual
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accounts, and so it becomes much more than literature; it is a social commentary whose main purpose was to expose the ills of capitalism, and idealize socialism. While I didn't care for the end of the book, which was one extremely long speech about socialism, I was completely drawn into the story. I found myself wishing that I would have been able to do something to help Jurgis's family.
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LibraryThing member tinableee
I attempted reading this book when I was about fourteen years old, but soon gave it up. Now, having read it all the way through, I have a huge appreciation for this masterpiece. Sinclair wrote the truth, and unveiled a world of corruption and poverty plaguing 19th century society. It provoked
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President Roosevelt to create the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act, and brought forth new safety and health standards for the workforce that stood as a foundation for the ones we hold today.

Sinclair's writing is centered around the character Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant with hopes of making it big in America. He, along with his family and the woman he plans on marrying, Ona, travel to Chicago, where it is said that fortunes are made. However, the evil of this society, with the all-powerful The Beef Trust and political machines, drive them into poverty and despair.

The family, unaware of the ways of this capitalist America, gets kicked down at every opportunity. And as their savings from the Old Country dwindles, taken away by cruel, thieving agents who exploit their ignorance, their spirit and hope fade away as well. With the entire family working 16 hours a day and still not making enough to survive, they experience death, tragedy, unemployment, and desperation. The descriptions of the atrocities Sinclair describes are disturbing and, for me, were previously unimaginable. One finds no chance of hope or success in their struggle till finally, when Jurgis has absolutely nothing left for him, he discovers Socialism.

This book has made a powerful impact on my view of the American workplace. I found myself enraptured by the vivid descriptions of the struggles of these immigrants, and feeling a great remorse for their losses. Although the ending of the novel is controversial among literary critics, I found it to be a suitable and solid close to the historical and truthful brilliance of Sinclair’s greatest work.
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LibraryThing member leslie.98
I read this book in high school and recalled it as powerful and upsetting. This reread confirmed that recollection! The horrors of work in Chicago stockyards/meat packing industry in the early years of the 20th century were enough to turn my stomach as well as wrench my heart. Books like this one &
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Dos Passos's U.S.A. trilogy make it clear why socialism and anarchy were growing movements at that time. It should be required reading for anyone who wants to roll back or eliminate health and safety regulations for industry!
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LibraryThing member electrascaife
Welp, that was cheerful.
The story follows an immigrant man and his family trying to survive in the packing district of turn-of-the-century Chicago, and details the corruption and filth of the packing companies and the devastating lives the workers led. Fascinating and horrible. And important. And
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not, horrifyingly, without certain relevancies today. My one quibble: the ending gets bogged down in a description of socialism and then ends much too abruptly. Otherwise, a solid - if not happy - read.
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LibraryThing member robrod1
An oldie but goodie. I noticed the condition of the characters much more than I did in the past. It is a sad story all areound of survival of the fittest.
LibraryThing member porch_reader
The Jungle tells the story of Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant who has come to the United States with his extended family to find work. When he finds himself in Chicago, he and his family get work in the Chicago Stockyards. They immediately begin to struggle to make ends meet. Faced with
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unfair labor practices, unsafe working conditions, and questionable treatment from con men, Jurgis works harder and harder to support the family. But hard work is not enough to overcome the conditions that Jurgis and his family face.

I found myself on the edge of my seat as I read this book. The descriptions of the conditions faced by Jurgis and his family were appalling. Each time I thought that they had finally caught a break, another tragedy befell the family. Sinclair provides insight into the meat packing industry, labor practices, Chicago politics and socialism as Jurgis searches for a way to overcome the system. The story was most effective when this historical background was woven with the story of Jurgis and his family. However, near the end of the book, Sinclair began to rely more on straight description, as Jurgis observed the workings of the Socialist party. Despite a rather abrupt ending, Sinclair's style was very effective in bringing to light the conditions of the times.
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LibraryThing member the1butterfly
This book is positively amazing- I was about ready to become a Socialist at the end. Basically what we have is the incredible story of what America was doing to its immigrants, and it wasn't pretty. Yes, the meat packing stuff was gross, but it wasn't even the most disturbing part (plus it makes
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great quotation material when you want to annoy people at dinner). I was most upset about the saga of how the family was starved out of their house. We need to see what corperate America was doing to immigrant Americans (and undoubtably still is).
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LibraryThing member MerryMary
Sinclair tries to enlist our sympathy and support for the socialist cause. But mostly what we bring away from this book is the horrifying conditions in the meatpacking industry, and the heart-rending plight of the immigrant worker. As he once said, he aimed for our hearts and got our stomachs
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LibraryThing member Hermione2
This book is good with regard to exposure of the evils of the meatpacking industry at the turn of the century. However, the author uses this for the purpose of making socialism the cure to all ills. The latter part of the book is socialistic dogma.
LibraryThing member CarlaR
I love this book. I was a bit apprehensive about the narration as in some places it takes on "Hawthorne-ish" type of over narration, but as I got a little further into The Jungle I realized that there was a point behind it other than the author wanting to be a showy wordsmith. Delving further into
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the book Mr. Sinclair becomes a master at bringing one into the brutality, inhumanity, and unsanitary conditions of the stockyards, but also the people who are forced by life's conditions to work there. The story focuses on one Lithunanian family and the trials that they endure trying to get along in America. I was not sure which I felt more, the agonizing defeat that this family must have felt in the condition that they were thrown into, or the strong desire I have to become vegetarian. I hope that this book will be as widely read in the next 100 years as it has been for the last 100 years.
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LibraryThing member oddvark59
Great classic novel about the struggle of European emigrants in the meat processing industry of early 20th century Chicago.
LibraryThing member Ash122390
When I was reading this book, my dad asked me multiple times if I had gotten up to the part about the pickle factory yet. After reading this book, I honestly don't remember anything about the pickle factory. When I began this book I thought it was going to be 341 pages about how the animals were
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killed in the meat packing factories. Instead I was presented with a story about a man trying to stay alive in a city where the rich supress the poor. Surprisingly, I found myself wanting to continue reading rather than forcing myself to turn the page. I also found myself wondering how a book, written in 1906 uses language current with that of today.
This book is an incredibly accurate story of city life in the 1800's to 1900's. It covers many aspects of what life was like including getting and keeping a job, buying a house, living day to day off a few cents (if that), corruption, the purchase of votes, bosses, tramping, and the rise of socialism. It was incredible to see how quickly one person's life could change-- just when I thought the story was coming to a close, a new twist would open up a dozen new doors.
Although this book did cause people to become unsure about the cleanliness of the beef products they were consuming, Upton Sinclair wrote this book with the intention of exposing the hardships of the poor in the industrial cities. I went into this book expecting to come out a vegetarian, but instead I gained valuable insight about the experiences of the masses in America. This book has shown me how far our country has come in one hundred years and has helped me appreciate what my life is like today.
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LibraryThing member Irisheyz77
A good book which inspired a nation to take a closer look at meat packaging plants. However, it did get a little to preachy about Socialism at times for my tastes.
LibraryThing member jorgearanda
I'd been very pleasantly surprised when I'd read "Fast Food Nation", but I wasn't aware how much that book owes to The Jungle. This is a powerful book; it opens our eyes to the gruesome meatpacking business and the struggles of poor immigrants.

Unfortunately, after the first half, The Jungle spirals
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down. It becomes an exercise in sadism, where everything you can imagine could go wrong will, and then, near the end, it's all redeemed by a couple dozen pages of communist wishful thinking. Still a valuable book, but one with diminishing returns.
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LibraryThing member angelthreads
I decided to read this as one of those books I have heard of as classics, but I had never read. I anticipated that these books would be things to wade through. I could not have been more surprised. I didn't want to put it down. It was fascinating and if I had not known when it was written, I would
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have thought it was contemporary. I did think it ended rather abruptly, but I couldn't put it down.
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LibraryThing member N.Nebeluk
This book is the reason there should be an option for 6 starts. A tragic story of an immigrant who comes to America for a better life but is just used up and left to die, his heart and back broken as a consequence of the greedy factory owners. This book is amazing both for the way it handles big
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issues such as the corruption of factory owners and the small issues of the day to day life of an immigrant in the early 1900's. An amazing book that should be on everyone's list of books to read and in every school's curriculum.
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LibraryThing member Angelic55blonde
This is a great book, published in 1906, especially from the historian's perspective. It was a book that after it was written, completely changed the Chicago stockyards. It was written about a Luthanian family who worked there during the beginning of the 20th century. Not many authors can be
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credited with writing a book that changed laws (The Pure Food and Drug Act (1906) is a direct result of the publication of this book). You have to appreciate a book that had such a monumental impact on many people's lives. The stockyards in Chicago were so bad... and this book brought it to light, not just in Chicago but nationally as well. Last year (2006) it was it's 100th year anniversary. It's a GREAT book and I highly recommend it.
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LibraryThing member Carlie
The story of a Lithuanian family that moves to Chicago to live a better life, but it turns out in ruin. All members of the family are forced to work under degrading conditions in filthy industries, whose bosses could care less about humanity and couldn't care more about profit. One by one, members
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of the family fall ill and die, lose their jobs, their home, and their dignity. As the story progresses, it focuses more on the patriarch, Jurges, and his errors, adventures, trials, and travails. By the end, he goes from a political boss's henchman to a full-blown socialist.

Although remembered for its critique and exposure of the meat packing industry, the novel is really focused on socialism and social change. How fitting, considering the fact that The Jungle helped spur the movement toward a "better" system of food regulation.

A good read and a good story; sad, enlightening, frightening, and still relevant today.
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LibraryThing member gypsysmom
I can just imagine the furore this book caused when it came out. The descriptions of the conditions at the meat packing plants in Chicago, which Sinclair knew from having gone undercover, were horrendous. As a result of this book the forerunner to the Food and Drugs Act was passed. At least as
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terrible as how meat was processed was how horribly the workers were treated. There was no such thing as health and safety or worker's compensation. If someone didn't turn up for work there were 100 more people to take their place. Wages were low and people went into debt to live in squalor. Children either worked in the meat packing plants or were sent out to sell papers. Women who had given birth had to go right back to work or lose their job. The protagonist lost everything, tried crime and strike breaking, and finally discovered socialism. Now, the promises and schemes the socialists made seem naive but to millions of the poor it must have seen like a beacon of light.
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LibraryThing member renderedtruth
This is a book that I love. I read it when I was living in the woods of Wisconsin after being abused on a job by a miserly old small town employer bully.

The story is described in the introduction of the copy with this cover as being rather thin and superfluous to its intent to expose the plight of
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the workers as a group. The characters are meant to be composites and are merely used to illustrate social conditions. This kind of analysis deadens the emotional impact of the struggling protagonist and his families plight.

It is always noted that this book spawned reforms in the meatpacking industry not over the cost of human suffering but just the unwholesome product that was exposed in the revolting manner in which the food was being produced.
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LibraryThing member Carapace
Warning: If you have ever been poor--and I mean no food, no fuel, maybe-I'll-whore-myself-to-buy-the-baby's-medicine poor, not "I can't afford cable" poor-- the first two thirds of this book will trigger some really fracking awful flashbacks.
If you haven't been that poor, and you read The Jungle,
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you're not going to believe it...but Sinclair was writing the truth of his time, and sadly, it's still close to home for a lot of people.
....And then comes the end third, and our hero discovers communism, and the whole thing falls apart.
Two-thirds a powerful, painful book. One third a useless, painful rant.
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LibraryThing member Alera
At the turn of the 20th century, muckraking was a new term for journalists who sought out corruption with the intent to expose. And there was a lot to be found. Most of their contributions have been forgotten, or go unnoticed. Time has passed and their words and works have stopped being relevant.
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Which is possibly what makes The Jungle so very special.

On one level it is simply the story of an immigrant family trying to survive in a new country where they know nothing of the environment, the language, the customs, or the political and financial situations. All they know is they want a better life, a fuller life. Their innocence is heartbreaking as you follow these fictional characters along a path that was all too real for immigrants in Chicago at the time.

On another level, this novel actually changed something, not necessarily what the author intended, with his clear and hammering message for socialism near the end. But it managed to be part of the cause of the forming of stricter regulations on food production. It got to people. In fact I think in some ways it still gets to people. And that is journalism and writing at its finest.

Upton Sinclair managed to reveal the harsh and horrible realities of factories in the early 1900's, while immortalizing the strength and determination of men, women, and children who would and did do anything to survive in the some of the most disgusting and demeaning conditions imaginable.
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LibraryThing member GaryPatella
I very much enjoyed this novel. Jurgus Rudkus is introduced as a large, strong, proud man. His struggles, tragedies, and downfalls show him transform from someone strong, powerful, and almost invincible to someone completely and totally broken down.

The novel ends in a deus ex machina fashion, and
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seems to have very little connection with what has preceded it. But nevertheless, this one is worth reading.
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LibraryThing member xuesheng
The Jungle was a reread for me. The story was as bleak as I remember. Jurgis Rudkus sees his family abused, exploited and ripped apart by the Stockyards of Chicago in the early 1900s. The story details their lives and tragedies after they immigrate to the US from Lithuania.

Upton Sinclair’s
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description of the unsanitary conditions of the meat-packers assisted in passage of both the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Beef Inspection Act, although the conditions of the packing plants were only a brief mention in the novel. Sinclair’s primary purpose was to publicize the working conditions, “wage slavery,” and advocate for socialism. Sinclair’s quote, included in Robert B. Downs’ Afterword of the Signet Classic 1960 edition, is an apt description of what happened instead, “I aimed at the public’s heart and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”

This is a classic American novel that should be read. Be aware that there are racial epithets and prejudice included in the novel.
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Original publication date



1593081189 / 9781593081188
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