Table of Contents
FROM THE PAGES OF THE JUNGLE
THE WORLD OF UPTON SINCLAIR AND THE JUNGLE
INSPIRED BY THE JUNGLE
COMMENTS & QUESTIONS
FOR FURTHER READING
FROM THE PAGES OF THE JUNGLE
Chicago and its saloons and its slums fade away—there are green meadows and sunlit rivers, mighty forests and snow-clad hills. They behold home landscapes and childhood scenes returning; old loves and friendships begin to waken, old joys and griefs to laugh and weep.
“I will work harder.” That was always what Jurgis said.
The new hands were here by the thousands. All day long the gates of the packing-houses were besieged by starving and penniless men; they came, literally, by the thousands every single morning, fighting with each other for a chance for life.
The people of Chicago saw the government inspectors in Packingtown, and they all took that to mean that they were protected from diseased meat; they did not understand that these hundred and sixty-three inspectors had been appointed at the request of the packers, and that they were paid by the United States government to certify that all the diseased meat was kept in the state.
On election day all these powers of vice and crime were one power; they could tell within one per cent what the vote of their district would be, and they could change it at an hour’s notice.
All day long the blazing midsummer sun beat down upon that square mile of abominations: upon tens of thousands of cattle crowded into pens whose wooden floors stank and steamed contagion; upon bare, blistering, cinder-strewn railroad-tracks, and huge blocks of dingy meat-factories, whose labyrinthine passages defied a breath of fresh air to penetrate them; and there were not merely rivers of hot blood, and car-loads of moist flesh, and rendering-vats and soap-caldrons, glue-factories and fertilizer tanks, that smelt like the craters of hell—there were also tons of garbage festering in the sun, and the greasy laundry of the workers hung out to dry, and dining-rooms littered with food and black with flies, and toilet-rooms that were open sewers.
He would find it everywhere the same; it was the incarnation of blind and insensate Greed. It was a monster devouring with a thousand mouths, trampling with a thousand hoofs; it was the Great Butcher—it was the spirit of Capitalism made flesh.
“It is the Railroad Trust that runs your state government, wherever you live, and that runs the United States Senate.”
“Organize! Organize! Organize!”
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The Jungle was first published in 1906.
Originally published in mass market format in 2003 by Barnes & Noble
Classics with new Introduction, Notes, Biography, Chronology, Inspired By,
Comments & Questions, and For Further Reading.
This trade paperback editon published in 2005.
Introduction, Notes, and For Further Reading
Copyright © 2003 by Maura Spiegel.
Note on Upton Sinclair, The World of Upton Sinclair and The Jungle,
Inspired by The Jungle, and Comments & Questions
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ON SEPTEMBER 20, 1878, Upton Beall Sinclair, Jr., was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to socially prominent but financially strained parents. His thinking on social and economic issues began to be shaped at a very early age, when he perceived the striking disparity between his parents’ restricted lifestyle and that of his wealthy grandparents. Sinclair’s parents, Upton Sr. and Priscilla, were devout Episcopalians who regularly attended church with their young son. Based on a doctor’s misguided diagnosis that Upton’s mind was “outgrowing [his] body,” his parents deferred his formal education until he was ten years old. He then completed the work of eight grade levels in less than two years and at age thirteen passed the entrance exam to the College of the City of New York.
Sinclair sold short vignettes, humor, and “half-dime” novels to finance five years at City College and graduate studies in literature and philosophy at Columbia University. In 1900 he married Meta Fuller, and their son, David, was born in 1901; the couple divorced in 1912. Sinclair married twice more.
In the early 1900s Upton Sinclair came into his own as a socialist thinker. Beginning with his contact with the editor of Appeal to Reason, the most influential socialist journal of its time, he met numerous figures who influenced his development from idealistic poet to social progressive. Sinclair was a significant presence within early socialist groups in America: In 1905 he cofounded the Intercollegiate Socialist Society with Jack London, Florence Kelley, and Clarence Darrow; in 1906 he established a socialist community, the Helicon Home Colony, in Englewood, New Jersey.
In 1906 the publication of The Jungle fueled a storm of debate on food sanitation laws and “wage slavery.” Sinclair subsequently won global celebrity for his exposures of social injustice—other novels concerned inequities and exploitation in the judicial system, in religion, in the oil, steel, and automobile industries—and he subscribed to the more radical ideologies of his time. His work is identified with that of the writers Theodore Roosevelt dubbed “muckrakers.” In all, he published more than ninety books and pamphlets and countless articles.
Sinclair’s End Poverty in California plan, under which he campaigned (unsuccessfully) for California governor in 1934, helped bring about substantial changes in the political and social climate of the United States, including passage in 1906 of the Meat Inspection Act and the federal Food and Drug Act, as well as more equitable tax laws under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His novel on the rise of Nazism, Dragon’s Teeth, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1943.
Upton Sinclair died on Novemb
er 25, 1968, in a nursing home in New Jersey. He is remembered not only as a prolific writer but as a significant contributor to American social thought.
THE WORLD OF UPTON SINCLAIR AND THE JUNGLE
1874 The formation of the Workingmen’s Party by a group of so cialists marks the dawn of labor reform activism and the strengthening of unions in the United States.
1877 The Workingmen’s Party changes its name to the Socialist Labor Party.
1878 n September 20 Upton Beall Sinclair, Jr., is born in Balti more, Maryland, to Upton Beall Sinclair, a salesman who comes from a distinguished Southern family, and Priscilla Harden Sinclair.
1883 Five-year-old Upton teaches himself to read.
1886 In Chicago the Haymarket Square labor riot is started by workers demonstrating in support of an eight-hour workday; the riot spreads consciousness of labor issues across the coun try.
1888 The Sinclair family moves to New York City. Up to this time, Upton has been home-schooled by his mother; he enters grammar school and completes eight grade levels in less than two years.
1892 Ellis Island opens on February 14 and New York City be comes an immigration mecca. Thirteen-year-old Upton passes the entrance exam for the College of the City of New York (then more or less a high school) and begins his studies in the fall. While at City College he starts his career as a professional writer, composing and selling pulp fiction.
1893 The New York Stock market crashes, leading to bank foreclo sures and a national economic depression that lasts four years. llinois Governor John Altgeld pardons three imprisoned Hay market demonstrators.
1894 Railway Union workers strike across the nation when the Pull man Palace Car Company reduces the wages of its workers without arbitration. The case goes to the Supreme Court.
1895 The Supreme Court’s decision against the Railway Union workers is a major setback for the trade union movement. As his father descends into alcoholism, Sinclair takes a job as a hotel clerk to support his mother.
1897 Sinclair enrolls in a graduate program at Columbia University to study literature and philosophy. He is a voracious reader—for example, reading all of Shakespeare and all the poetry of John Milton in two weeks—and a quick learner. He continues to support himself and his mother by writing for Army and Navy Weekly at the rate of $40 per story.
1901 President William McKinley is assassinated by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, and Theodore Roosevelt fills the vacancy. Sin clair publishes his first novel, Springtime and Harvest, about penniless lovers. The History of the Standard Oil Company, Ida Tarbell’s expose of the illicit means John D. Rockefeller sed to monopolize the early oil industry, is serialized in Mc Clure’s Magazine.
1902 Sinclair meets socialist Leonard D. Abbott, who gives him a number of books and pamphlets and introduces him to John Spargo, editor of a socialist monthly.
1904 Sinclair’s next novel, Manassas, about the Civil War, catches the eye of Fred Warren, editor of the socialist weekly Appeal to Reason. Warren buys from Sinclair the serial rights for a novel about immigrant workers in the Chicago meatpacking district, and in October Sinclair heads to Chicago to live among meatpacking workers for seven weeks. While in Chi cago compiling data for what will become The Jungle, Sinclair is invited to dinner at Jane Addams’s Hull House, one of the first American settlement houses, welfare institutions estab lished in poor neighborhoods to improve social conditions. At ull House, he meets Adolphe Smith, a founder of the Social Democratic Federation in England. Smith’s socialist criticism of the meatpacking industry significantly influences Sinclair’s political convictions and the final version of The Jungle.
1905 Sinclair helps found the Intercollegiate Socialist Society in New York City. At the first official meeting, on September 12, writer Jack London is elected president. The Jungle is published in installments in Appeal to Reason, helping to increase the magazine’s circulation to 175,000. However, the novel is rejected by five book publishers. With the backing of Jack London and others in the socialist move ment, Sinclair decides to publish the book himself and takes in $4,000 in advance sales, money he will use to fund a “home colony,” a socialist community.
1906 Impressed by Sinclair’s advance sales, Doubleday agrees to publish The Jungle. The two editions appear simultaneously in February, and The Jungle is an immediate success. Inspired by the novel, President Theodore Roosevelt orders the De partment of Agriculture to investigate conditions in the stock yards; that investigation yields support for passage of two pieces of federal legislation: the Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. Sinclair publishes his plan for a “home colony” in the June issue of The Independent. The Helicon Home Colony opens in Englewood, New Jersey, on Novem ber 1; it is destroyed by fire four months later.
1907 Sinclair publishes The Industrial Republic, a “prophecy of socialism in America,” in which he predicts that publishing giant William Randolph Hearst will be a future U.S. president.
1914 Sinclair joins a community of radicals, including investigative journalist and socialist Max Eastman and others, at Croton on-Hudson, a small town north of New York City.
1915 Sinclair publishes The Cry for justice: An Anthology of the Great Social Protest Literature of All Time.
1917 On April 2 the United States declares war on Germany. The “Red Scare” motivates Congress to pass the Espionage Act, followed by the Sedition Act in 1918, and a nationwide cam paign against left-wing groups and radicals is launched. An argument between Sinclair and Max Eastman over the cause of World War I is printed in the left-wing journal The Masses; Sinclair resigns from the Socialist Party. Sinclair publishes King Coal, a story about a miner’s strike in Colorado.
1918 His nonfiction The Profits of Religion criticizes clergymen more concerned with money than spirituality.
1920 On September 16 a bomb on Wall Street kills 30 and injures 300. “Reds” and anarchists are suspected.
1926 Sinclair rejoins the Socialist Party and is nominated as their candidate for governor of California.
1927 On August 22 Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian immigrants who were widely considered to have been denied a fair trial, are executed for murder. Sinclair’s novel Oil! ex poses exploitation in the California oil fields.
1928 Sinclair chronicles the Sacco-Vanzetti case in his novel Boston. Soon after its publication, Boston is nominated for a Pulitzer Prize but is passed over because of its “socialistic tendencies.”
1930 With the beginning of the Great Depression, 12 million Americans become unemployed. During the summer and fall, Sinclair is again the Socialist Party’s candidate for governor of California. Sinclair publishes The Wet Parade, which advo cates the prohibition of alcohol.
1932 MGM premieres the film adaptation of The Wet Parade.
1933 Sinclair’s I, Governor of California—andHow I Ended Pov erty is published. On September 1 Sinclair changes his reg istration from Socialist to Democrat. In October he is invited to the White House by Eleanor Roosevelt.
1934 Again running for governor of California, Sinclair submits his End Poverty in California (EPIC) program to the White House, hoping for an endorsement. He loses the gubernato rial race, but less than a year after the election, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sends Congress a tax resolution that has many similarities to Sinclair’s EPIC plan.
1935 Sinclair publishes I, Candidate for Governor—andHow I Got Licked.
1940 He publishes World’s End, the first in a series of eleven novels featuring the journalist Lanny Budd, illegitimate son of a mu nitions tycoon; the series will retell world history, with a focus on the United States, from 1913 to 1949.
1941 Between Two Worlds and Peace or War in America are pub lished. On December 7 Japanese warplanes attack Pearl Harbor. FDR declares war against Japan the following day.
1942 Dragon’s Teeth, a novel about the rise of Nazism, is published.
1943 Sinclair wins the Pulitzer Prize for Dragon’s Teeth.
1960 His autobiography, My Lifetime in
Letters, is published.
1967 On December 15 Sinclair joins President Lyndon Johnson for the signing of the Wholesome Meat Act, a revision of the 1906 legislation.
1968 On November 25 Upton Sinclair dies in a nursing home in Bound Brook, New Jersey.
Battling the Titans: The Era of the Great Exposé
They have all used language as a blunt instrument ; they write as if they were swinging shillelaghs.
—Malcolm Cowley on the Naturalist writers, in “Not Men: A Natural History of American Naturalism”
UPTON SINCLAIR described the site of Chicago’s meatpacking industry, Packingtown, as “the greatest aggregation of labor and capital ever gathered in one place.” The supreme achievement of American capitalism, Sinclair would undertake to reveal, was also its greatest disgrace. At the age of twenty-six, Sinclair set out to write The Jungle in the spirit of Saint George battling the dragon. His was an age of capitalist Titans, of magnates whose wealth, power, and hubris seemed unlimited: A single man owned a million acres of the Texas Panhandle, an American coal tycoon attempted to buy the Great Wall of China, and in the Midwest a combination known as the Beef Trust tightly controlled the production and sale of meat through pervasive wage and price fixing and the unrelenting exploitation of the stockyard workforce. Sinclair’s was also an age when writers, both journalists and novelists, were experiencing a thrilling sense of their own efficacy. The investigative exposé—what President Theodore Roosevelt would unflatteringly dub “muckraking,” after the character in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678, 1684) who could “look no way but downward, with a muckrake in his hands”—had taken the magazine and publishing world by storm, had grabbed hold of the popular reader, and was shining a bright light on the ever-darkening realms of child labor, prisons, insurance companies, and, foremost, American enterprise and its role in the creation of a new American class of impoverished industrial wage slaves.