#CBR6 Review #41: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Ergh. How is it July already????? I won’t laundry list you with all the things that Must Get Done by the time this school year starts, but my dissertation draft is at the top of the list, followed by unit plans for this next semester of composition (thankfully, teaching the same class for the fourth year will come in awfully handy). Last year, I Cannonballed in July. Ain’t gonna happen this year. What are you going to do?

Anyway. I read The Jungle, thinking that it would be this grand expose on the meatpacking industry. Apparently, people who read it in past years quit reading about a third of the way into the book.

So: Jurgis Rudkus is a Lithuanian immigrant who takes a chance and comes to the United States to live the American Dream. He and his sweetheart Ona get married and try to scrape together a living for their family by working in various meatpacking or canning factories. The conditions are terrible and unethical (obviously), but there’s a larger social malaise people forget to mention when they speak about The Jungle: the shocking abuse enacted on immigrants by people who Know Better.

The Jungle is about more than horrific working conditions–it’s about the cannibalistic nature of unchecked capitalism on the helpless worker. Yes, there are themes of socialism that underpin the novel, but after reading about the disgusting practices in the name of the almighty dollar, can you blame the workers? I can’t. The novel is compelling, but it slowly wears you down into a puddle of pessimism. Not exactly the antidote for the “my dissertation sucks and so do I” cloud that’s been hanging over my head these days. It’s totally worth reading, I promise. Just maybe when you’re in a good place. And I wouldn’t eat any pork while reading it, either.

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