Upton Sinclair

The Jungle was a novel written by Upton Sinclair in 1906 about the harsh conditions and manipulation immigrants faced in the United States in Chicago and other industrialized cities in the US. The novel was centered upon a Lithuanian family who heard stories of America and the better life it had to offer. Excited about all the opportunities in America, the family of 13 including Jurgis Rudkus, Ona Lukoszaite, Elzbieta Lukoszaite, Marija Berczynskas, Jonas, Antanas Rudkus, Little Antanas Rudkus, Stanislovas, Kotrina, Vilimas, Nikalojus, Juozapas, and Kristoforas, packed their bags and moved to America, the “land of opportunity.” There they found opportunities where, more often than not, they were manipulated by people. The book discusses the horrors inside the meat-packing industry that would turn some vegan and make most meat eaters cringe, but; nonetheless, keep eating. Using imagery and connotative diction to amplify the characters, plot, and theme in his novel, The Jungle, Upton Sinclair is able to successfully capture the reader’s emotions and reveal the unsanitary environments, unfair working conditions, and unethical business practices in America's meat-packing industries.

The Jungle was both shocking and enlightening to readers everywhere, especially now, where immigration is very controversial in the United States. Sinclair’s novel was literary, historical, and political in its nature. It was like a call to action for the American meat-packing industry as well as others. It seems that Sinclair wanted to make it known to everyone what was going in their mouths and about the people who slaved over and sometimes rolled over, dead, to provide it for them. He wasn’t elegant about his message either, people had to get it and so he didn’t put it lightly when he explained things. Some readers were just as shocked as the Lithuanian family when they found out they had to pay tax on their home and that they were being manipulated, and others, not so much.

The Jungle revealed Lithuanian culture as well. We got into the minds of the family members and so it was like we knew them, that was until we watched, well, read them start to die off one-by-one. We learned about the veselija, and we all had our views on that, including our questioning on why Jurgis was so cool with Ona popping over from guy to guy to dance with them for money like some kind of more subtle prostitution, and I guess Ona couldn’t really dance well since they left her and Jurgis high and dry in debt with another thing to worry about. But to each is their own with culture. We can’t really talk with the standard black handshake we use when greeting everyone we know.

The novel left its readers with a lot of questions. We wondered if it was reportage or nonfiction, but; nonetheless, it left its readers questioning things and looking at cheeseburgers with a bit less drool rolling down their chins. So a beginning question I encountered in my head when reading this like most others, what makes Upton Sinclair credibly and who are his witnesses because Upton Sinclair is definitely not an immigrant. Turns out he seems pretty credible with his near 100 books and works in several other genres. Upton Sinclair said “I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach,” and that he did, but he hit our hearts too.