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Jungle, The

The Jungle

novel sinclair jurgis chicago

a novel by Upton Sinclair, published in 1906. The Jungle is Sinclair's best-known novel and one of the most tractarian works of fiction in American literature. It tells the story of Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant, and of his family and their life in Chicago, particularly the ‘Packingtown’ district of the city which borders Chicago's infamous stockyards. The great power of the novel lies in its evocation of the progressive degradation of Jurgis and his family, brought on by their experience of urban America: he loses his job as a meat packer; his child, little Antanas, is drowned in the thick mud that surrounds their wooden-frame house; and Jurgis becomes a tramp. This narrative of events, in effect, occupies the first half of the novel; the second half is largely tendentious and polemical as Sinclair uses Jurgis's experiences to provide a justification for socialist agitation and social and industrial reform. The novel had enormous political impact: President Theodore Roosevelt read The Jungle and immediately ordered an investigation of the Chicago slaughterhouses; in June 1906 the Pure Food and Drug Act became law, soon after Double-day had published Sinclair's novel. Some historians have gone so far as to suggest that The Jungle was the cause of a relative decline in meat consumption in the USA for about two decades.

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