Long and tedious, with the purpose of showing the unsanitary conditions of the Chicago meat industry, The Jungle is a book that was written by Upton Sinclair. After his manuscript was completed in 1905, it appeared serially in Appeal to Reason, a widely circulated socialist periodical. This initial publication caused much controversy and immediate reaction. Much difficulty was encountered, however, when he tried to get it published in book form. None of the publishers wanted it published completely in its current form, and Sinclair didn't want to cut any of it out. It was finally published in 1906, by Sinclair himself with considerable financial aid from Jack London.
There is no table of contents as it is written in the form of a novel. Likewise, there are very few footnotes and the footnotes it does have are on how to pronounce things. There is a bibliography in the back which lists all of his sources for information on meatpacking and his other documentation. For the most part it is historically accurate, as it tells the life of a man who works in a realistic meat packing setting.
Because it is fictional, though, it probably would not be much of an aid to a historical researcher. The novel itself, containing over Three hundred pages, is rather long and tediously boring. Sinclair's central purpose in writing The Jungle was to persuade people to join the socialist party and to adopt the view that socialism is the only way to conquer the capitalistic empires that abuse the working class. The socialist ethic is that the general public will have joint ownership of the factory. Thus, they will finally be able to eliminate the undesirable working conditions and to advocate new, more comfortable working conditions. Sinclair uses many clever devices in order to get his readers to agree with this ethic.
First, he keeps the many characters basically flat and two-dimensional throughout the whole novel. After their initial introduction, they are not developed any further or given any more human characteristics. They are outlined by what the author tells you they do; no thought or decision making on their part is ever shown. He also keeps all of the characters at the same level.
The reader never knows any more about one character's personality than he does about another character's personality. He only knows basically nothing about either character's personality. Another device Sinclair employs is leaving only one option, one alternative, to being held captive by capitalism. Throughout the entire novel, life goes downhill for Jurgis Rud kis. At the beginning, he and his family are relatively happy.
They buy a house and all get jobs. But as the story progresses, their situation constantly gets worse. First, the growing payments on the house cause Ona, Jurgis's lover, and her brother to have to get jobs. Jurgis's father is then killed because of the bad working conditions. Spraining his ankle at the plant, Jurgis is unable to work. When he recovers, he is unable to find work because of his bad ankle.
He finally gets a job at the fertilizer plant, a place avoided by all men if possible. He starts to drink in order to forget about his job. One day, he finds out that Ona has been seduced and he goes and beats up Connor, the man who seduced Ona. For this he is placed in jail. When he finally gets out, he finds that his family has lost the house and that Ona is dying in childbirth.
After her death, he gets drunk and disappears for a while. When he returns, he is in and out of different jobs until eventually he is going to soup kitchens to get food and anyplace he can to keep warm. One of these places happens to be a rally for the Socialist party. At this point in the novel, things start to look up for the first time. It has all been down, down, down until now. Jurgis's soul has been saved by the socialist party, the light in the darkness, the only option for defeating the evil of capitalism.
In the interest of leisurely reading, this novel is not a very entertaining or even worthwhile read. Unless you get a kick out of people who decide to become communists (personally I think it is sick), this book should probably be avoided. The multitudes of characters make the plot particularly confusing because it is often wondered to whom the text is referring. And on top of that, the characters themselves are exceedingly boring, containing absolutely no personality whatsoever.
The title of the book, 'The Jungle'; , is inaccurate because it has nothing to do with the jungle. Rather than being about the jungle, it is about immigrants to America. Upwards of three hundred pages of print, this book is long, boring, and difficult to read. I would not recommend it to anyone who is in search of a good read. 'The Jungle'; , by Upton Sinclair, is a novel that was written to change things for the better for the working class of society.
Although it achieved some degree of success in this area, it did not achieve it's goal of converting the society to communism. It has served it's purpose in history well, and needs not to be read by another living soul.