Posts Tagged Upton Sinclair

Book #1: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Posted by on Tuesday, 21 December, 2010

For my first book, I decided to start with some light reading: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Although this book was published early in the 2oth century, it remains topical even today. If you don’t believe me, and really why would you, ask Glenn Beck:

Ah Glenn Beck. If I wanted to waste money on postage, I’d send him my copy of The Jungle when I finish it. Upton Sinclair intended The Jungle to be a commentary on worker’s rights but instead his 36 part serial caused an uproar over food safety. It was first published in 1905 in a socialist magazine and later printed in February 1906. President Teddy Roosevelt, the very one Glenn Beck derides, called Sinclair a crackpot and sent investigators to establish the validity of his claims. Not long afterward, the original food and safety act was signed into law.

From the FDA’s website:

In fact, the nauseating condition of the meat-packing industry that Upton Sinclair captured in The Jungle was the final precipitating force behind both a meat inspection law and a comprehensive food and drug law.

Upton Sinclair might have changed the food regulation laws in the United States but from the opening scene, the focus is on the plight of the workers.

The book begins with the wedding of Jurgis and Ona, two Lithuanian immigrants and working stiffs. At the urging of family, the couple arranges a wedding ceremony in keeping with Lithuanian tradition. Part of this tradition means that everyone in the community is provided with food and drink by the married couple, only to be paid back later in the evening with extra to start the couple on their life together. Things in America are a bit different and Jurgis ends up being cheated by vendors and partygoers alike. Jurgis responds to this with his typical, I will work harder.

And so far, every roadblock and cheat that Jurgis encounters is met with I will work harder. Sounds like a bootstrapper motto. Somehow I don’t believe that will work for him.

Happy Birthday Upton Sinclair: September, 20th!

Read The Jungle or listen to the audiobook free at Project Gutenberg.