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104 of 107 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chicago Stockyards at the Turn of the Century
Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkus and his new bride Ona, along with several other extended family members, try to survive in the "Back of the Yards" district of Chicago. Strapping Jurgis quickly finds employment in the meat packing business and the family begins to eke out a very modest living.

The appeal of home ownership quickly becomes their undoing. They...
Published on July 29, 2009 by Edward Ramirez

189 of 217 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Falsely Marketed Edition
I wrote the below review-article for the History News Network (26 June 2006), and I share it here so that Amazon customers will know the truth about this flawed edition of this important social novel.

"The Fictitious Suppression of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle"

Christopher Phelps, The Ohio State University

When a small, Tucson-based...
Published on August 12, 2006 by Christopher Phelps

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104 of 107 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chicago Stockyards at the Turn of the Century, July 29, 2009
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This review is from: The Jungle (Kindle Edition)
Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkus and his new bride Ona, along with several other extended family members, try to survive in the "Back of the Yards" district of Chicago. Strapping Jurgis quickly finds employment in the meat packing business and the family begins to eke out a very modest living.

The appeal of home ownership quickly becomes their undoing. They invest their life savings as the downpayment and due to unplanned costs of homeownership (interest, taxes, repairs, etc), they quickly fall behind in their finances. This requires all family members to seek employment, which allows them to hold their heads above water. Unfortunately, the seasonal swings of work, ill health and brutal Chicago winters lead to further financial struggles.

A variety of further circumstances such as death, illness and infidelity lead to choices that continue to test the morals of the characters. Each struggle with the choices necessary for their survival. All are changed forever by the "evils" of the system.

The story details the horrific working conditions of the Stockyards laborers, the deplorable practices followed by the meat packing industry itself and the corruption associated with a capitalistic system. Yes, socialism is an underlying theme in this novel that becomes more evident at novel end.

Overall a very well written novel that provides a glimpse into the despicable conditions endured by the labor force of the Stockyards. No issues with the Kindle edition.
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80 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A supreme achievement, July 7, 2007
Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" is one of the handful of books throughout all of history, perhaps, that have encapsulated the crying voices of the oppressed. While many readers and politicians at the time of its publication (and since) have focused on the intolerable conditions in which American food products were produced, the major thrust in "The Jungle" is not in regards to the ill-treatment of our food; it is in regards to the ill-treatment of our workers.

The repeated sufferings of Jurgis and his family are akin to an overwhelming symphony of sorrowful songs. As his family is driven deeper into debt, his body worn down, and his life's zeal and love slowly strangled, Jurgis' desperation becomes palpable, and if you can't sympathize with his feelings at the loss of his family's home--a structure they worked so hard for--check your pulse. You might be dead.

The book contains some of the most horrific depictions in all of literature, including a mercifully oblique reference to a child's death by being eaten alive by rats. Although the novel focuses on Jurgis primarily, it is the children--the laboring little people--who elicit the most sympathy in this reader's view. Struggling to support their family, escaping extremely dangerous situations (one little girl is nearly dragged into an alley and raped), sleeping on the street, and begging desperately for food--the appalling conditions being visited upon children as described in "The Jungle" still have the power to arouse strong anger and outrage, over a century after its initial publication.

One of the greatest social novels ever written, "The Jungle" is a moving tribute to the millions of immigrants who did come here legally, who did find jobs, who were ready to work for their slice of the American Dream, and who survived (barely) despite being swindled, stolen from, lied to, oppressed, turned out, ignored, and abused, almost from the very first step they took into the United States. The recent punditry over immigration that has dominated the national debate should serve as a reminder of the timelessness exhibited in Upton Sinclair's seminal masterpiece.
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159 of 175 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "But I'm glad I'm not a pig!", January 2, 2004
Originally published in 1906 by Upton Sinclair, THE JUNGLE sent shockwaves throughout the United States that resulted in cries for labor and agricultural reforms. It is indeed rare that a book should have such a political impact, but although Sinclair may have been surprised at the results, it is apparent while reading this novel that his words form a political agenda of its own. It should be noted that Sinclair was a devout Socialist who traveled to Chicago to document the working conditions of the world-famous stockyards. Sinclair originally published this book in serial form in the Socialist newspaper, The Appeal to Reason. But as a result of the popularity of this series Sinclair decided to try to publish in a form of a novel.
Sinclair widely utilized the metaphor of the jungle (survival of the fittest, etc.) throughout this book to reflect how the vulnerable worker is at the mercy of the powerful packers and politicians. Mother Nature is represented as a machine who destroys the weak and protects the elite powerful. To illustrate his sentiments Sinclair wrote of family of Jurgis and Ona who immigrated to Chicago from Lithuania in search of the American dream. They arrive in all innocence and believe that hard work would result in a stable income and security. But they soon realize that all the forces are against them. During the subsequent years Jurgis tries to hold on what he has but he is fighting a losing battle. It is not until he stumbles upon a political meeting that his eyes upon the evils of capitalism and the sacredness of socialism.
If one is to read THE JUNGLE, then they should do themselves a favor and seek out this version. It is the original, uncensored version that Sinclair originally intended to publish. It contains much more details of the horrifying conditions of the meatpacking industry that Jurgis and his family were subjected to. I originally read the standard version of this book many years ago, but I didn't hestitate to invest in this edition as I wanted to read what Sinclair had originally intended.
THE JUNGLE is an important book on the labor history of the United States, the non-fairytale immigration of foreigners into the melting pot, and the history of Chicago. Recommended, but not for the faint of heart.
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88 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book (even if you were assigned to read it)., July 9, 2000
sporkdude "sporkdude" (San Jose, Ca United States) - See all my reviews
I'm the type of guy that can't stand many literary classics. I'm sorry, but I read a book for entertainment, not for metephors, meaning or symbolism. This is why it seems strange that I highly recommend this book.
This book chronicles the life of immigrants from Lithuania who settle in Chicago in hopes of obtaining the American Dream. The way Sinclair describes the hardships of this family, it almost feels like you're the one who's suffering. Though depressing, the amount of detail engulfs the reader.
Though the book is famous for exposing the meat packing industry's unsanitary conditions, it really is just a minor part of this book. The worker's rights, the racism, the corruption, and the poverty is what this book is all about. Though I'm a firm believer of Adam Smith and his invisible hand, half way through the book, I was searching for the local Socialist recruiter. Well, not really, but it will open anyone's mind.
Except for the end, where it was just pure Socialist propoganda, this book is fantastic.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How much has really changed?, May 27, 2002
By A Customer
Excellent book that tells the story of Jurgis, a Lithuanian immigrant who finds himself stuck in the Chicago stockyards. It traces his life in America, telling about all the horridness in the meat packing industry, which prompted the Food and Drug Act shortly after the book was written. It's a true account of what went on in the early 1900's, told in a fictional sort of way. It then proceeds through different manners of living at the bottom of society (i.e., theft, prostitution, political graft, etc.). The last few chapters, though, are mainly Sinclair preaching and raving about the benefits of socialism, which I think ends the story of Jurgis earlier than it needed to be. However, this book was written for the purpose of change during that time, and it probably did help considerably. However, if you also read "Fast Food Nation," which I highly reccommend, you have to wonder, really, how much has really changed? The faces may be different, but is the public not still led to believe by the government and the packing industry that all is fine and dandy with what we eat? Ugh, read both books... they'll scare you.
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189 of 217 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Falsely Marketed Edition, August 12, 2006
I wrote the below review-article for the History News Network (26 June 2006), and I share it here so that Amazon customers will know the truth about this flawed edition of this important social novel.

"The Fictitious Suppression of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle"

Christopher Phelps, The Ohio State University

When a small, Tucson-based publisher of anarchist and atheist literature called See Sharp Press issued a new edition in 2003 of Upton Sinclair's famous novel The Jungle, it was not especially remarkable. Editions of The Jungle, from the scholarly to the mass-market, are abundant. Generations of readers have been transfixed by the misery of the novel's protagonist, the Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkus, in Chicago's gruesome meatpacking industry. No publishing house, it seems, has ever lost money on The Jungle--something that cannot be said of many other works of socialist literature.

The See Sharp edition, however, is extraordinary for its fanfare. Its subtitle proclaims it The Uncensored Original Edition. A slogan on the front cover, complete with exclamation point, denounces all competing editions as "censored commercial versions!" The back jacket touts it as "the version of The Jungle that Upton Sinclair very badly wanted to be the standard edition--not the gutted, much shorter commercial version with which we're all familiar."

Inside is a foreword by Earl Lee, a librarian at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, who writes of "efforts of censors to subvert" The Jungle's "political message" and states that Sinclair "changed The Jungle in order to get it published by a large commercial publisher." An introduction by Kathleen De Grave, professor of American literature at Pittsburg State, suggests that Sinclair's alterations were "not driven by a desire for artistic economy" but "produced under coercion, directly or indirectly." The text restored by the See Sharp edition, she holds, is "closer to Sinclair's true vision."

Is it any wonder that reviewers have found it impossible to resist the romance of a forgotten, authentic, suppressed version of The Jungle? Library Journal, in classifying the See Sharp edition as "essential," deplores the novel's "butchering" and claims "Sinclair later wanted to reinsert the expurgated material for a full-length version but that never came to fruition" (April 15, 2003). The People's Weekly World, newspaper of the Communist Party USA, states, "If you have never read The Jungle, don't waste your time on the 1906 censored version. Go right to the original, now available, at a reasonable price, and feel and experience the real message that Upton Sinclair so deeply desired to convey to his readers" (May 29, 2004).

Just one problem: none of the sensational claims made on behalf of the See Sharp edition is true. The Jungle was not censored. Sinclair did not revise the text to meet the coercive demands of a commercial publisher. He never wanted the 1905 serial version to become the standard edition. And the novel, as eventually published in book form, has a political message that is perfectly clear.

First issued as a book by Doubleday, Page in 1906, The Jungle was a straightaway international bestseller. The See Sharp edition recuperates a lesser-known, earlier version of the novel. The Jungle was first published in serial form between February 25, 1905, and November 4, 1905, in The Appeal to Reason, a socialist newspaper with a nationwide readership edited by Fred Warren and published by J. A. Wayland out of Girard, Kansas. An almost identical text was published in three installments between April and October 1905 in One-Hoss Philosophy, a small-circulation quarterly also published by Wayland. The See Sharp edition reproduces the One-Hoss text.

The initial 1905 version of the novel had a different ending and was longer than the 1906 book known the world over as The Jungle. The former had 36 chapters, the latter 31. This redaction is the basis for See Sharp's charge that the novel was "gutted" or, as Lee puts it, "expurgated." According to De Grave, "since the socialists could not raise the revenue to adequately publish, promote, and distribute his book, the only alternative was to revise the novel in such a way that a capitalist publisher would accept it. ...Sinclair must have agonized over the revisions he made. They went against what he believed in, and what he'd seen for himself."

If this is so--if The Jungle was censored, if corporate perfidy forced Sinclair to make changes he did not wish to make--then a question arises. Why did he permit a bowdlerized version to be reissued, decade after decade?

Across Sinclair's ninety years, numerous editions of The Jungle were issued . Sinclair held the copyright. Yet every time the novel appeared, it followed the 1906 text. Sinclair self-published the novel four times (1920, 1935, 1942, 1945). He wrote introductory material for the Viking (1946) and Heritage (1965) editions. Further editions of The Jungle include Haldeman-Julius (1924), Vanguard (1926), Albert & Charles Boni (1928), Penguin (1936), Amsco School (1946), R. Bentley (1946), Harper (1951), World (1959), New American Library (1960), Dial (1965), Airmont (1965), and the Limited Editions Club (1965). If Sinclair yearned for the 1905 version and wanted to see it restored, why did he not insist upon its use in these many editions?

To settle this matter definitively requires passing beyond rhetorical questions, however, to a recapitulation of The Jungle's circuitous publishing history.

After turning out hundreds of pages of fiction week after week in 1904 and 1905, Sinclair was exhausted. He disliked the end result, a work he considered long-winded and rambling. "I went crazy at the end," he wrote in a personal letter in 1930 to a reader curious as to why many passages had been excised, "... and tried to put in everything I knew about the Socialist movement. I remember that Warren came to see me at my farm near Princeton, and I read him the concluding chapters, and he went to sleep. So I guess that is why I left them out of the book!"

Sinclair began to abbreviate the text. He corrected the Lithuanian references, changing, for example, the name of the main character from Rudkos to the more typical Rudkus. He sought to streamline the novel, making it less repetitious and didactic. At the same time, he ran into problems with Macmillan, a major publisher that had advanced him a contract for book rights following serialization. Macmillan, Sinclair later recalled, demanded that he eliminate the "blood and guts." Although he strove to pare down the text, Sinclair was unwilling, on principle, to compromise the novel's brutal realism. The Macmillan arrangement disintegrated by autumn 1905.

Next Sinclair tried to persuade the Appeal to issue the novel as a book, but Warren and Wayland, although phenomenally successful at publishing socialist periodicals, felt ill-equipped to enter into book promotion and distribution. Sinclair then submitted the book to "five leading publishing houses" and watched as every one rejected it, a story he first recounted in a 1920 brochure announcing a new self-published edition of The Jungle.

Frustrated, Sinclair resolved to publish the book on his own. In a letter published in the Appeal to Reason (November 18, 1905), Sinclair criticized capitalist publishing and requested that readers help subsidize the printing costs by ordering copies in advance. He began to trim the work according to his taste and to have the book set into type. Then a surprise turn of events transpired: Doubleday, Page offered him a contract.

Sinclair was satisfied that Doubleday would not pressure him to make changes he could not accept. In a follow-up letter published in the Appeal (December 16, 1905), Sinclair alluded to "an offer from a publishing house of the highest standing, which is willing to bring out the book on my own terms." Because he had already accepted individual orders, however, Sinclair continued to invite donations and superintend the book's typesetting. He asked Doubleday to permit him to publish his own small concurrent edition. Their memorandum of agreement was signed on January 8, 1906.

Just one month later, in February 1906, Doubleday, Page put out The Jungle, and the book took the world by storm. Simultaneously, an edition of five thousand copies appeared under the imprint of "The Jungle Publishing Company." Its cover was nearly identical, except for an embossed addition: the Socialist Party's symbol of hands clasped across the globe. Pasted inside was a label identifying it as the "Sustainer's Edition." The Doubleday edition and this special edition were both issued in New York and printed from the same plates, as prepared by Sinclair.

Sinclair's memoir American Outpost (1932) corroborates this chronology: "I forget who were the other publishers that turned down The Jungle. There were five in all; and by that time I was raging, and determined to publish it myself. ...I offered a 'Sustainer's Edition,' price $1.20, postpaid, and in a month or two I took in four thousand dollars--more money than I had been able to earn in all the past five years. ...I had a printing firm in New York at work putting The Jungle into type. Then, just as the work was completed, some one suggested that I offer the book to Doubleday, Page and Company. So I found myself in New York again, for a series of conferences with Walter H. Page and his young assistants. ...Doubleday, Page agreed to bring out the book, allowing me to have a simultaneous edition of my own to supply my 'sustainers.' The publication was in February, 1906, and the controversy started at once."

The version that See Sharp Press disparages as "censored" and "commercial," in other words, is the very version that Sinclair approved, the one that his socialist readers subsidized, and the one that he fought to bring before a wide public without sacrifice of "blood and guts."

In her introduction, De Grave holds that the 1906 edition was politically vitiated, that it "skirted the realities of disease and death among the poor" and "apologized to the rich and powerful by its silences." This misimpression arises from a grave analytical error. De Grave presumes that because, say, a given passage condemning capitalism was excised, the resultant novel somehow excuses capitalism. For the most part, however, Sinclair was pruning away duplicative material. It is an absurdity to allege that The Jungle, recognized by millions as one of the leading social novels of the twentieth century, apologized for the rich or overlooked disease and death among the poor.

Equally fanciful is De Grave's contention that Sinclair watered down the novel's "ethnic flavor" by modifying its Lithuanian spellings and terms. She makes a great deal, for example, of Sinclair's adjustment of a minor female character's name from Aniele Juknos to Aniele Jukniene. This "telling alteration," declares De Grave, made "the name less Slavic by adding the Romance-language ending." In actuality, Sinclair was rectifying a blunder. Jukniene is the married feminine form of Jukna; "Juknos" was erroneous. In his meticulous new linguistic analysis Upton Sinclair: The Lithuanian Jungle (2006), Giedrius Suba
ius, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, writes, "The Lithuanian language of the 1906 edition would have looked quite correct, accurate, and standardized to contemporary Lithuanians, unlike the first newspaper edition of 1905, which contained many more dialectal features, inconsistencies, and mistakes."

The Jungle was revised, not suppressed. It was published precisely as Sinclair wished. Its refashioning was not ruinous, and Sinclair emended it voluntarily, not under duress. The 1905 text of The Jungle is best understood not as pristine and superior, but as an unevenly executed rough draft produced in great haste. Sinclair truncated it for aesthetic reasons. The result was a more concise text that retains the novel's political, ethnic, and naturalistic sensibilities while eliminating some of the tedious didacticism of the first draft. (Most literary critics still believe there's too much of that in the novel, as it is.)

Rewriting abounds in literary history. Charles Dickens, for example, altered the ending of Great Expectations, serialized in 1860-1861, when it appeared as a book, yielding to the entreaties of his friend, the playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Shakespeare, Milton, and Wordsworth all published different versions of identical works.

There is value, to be sure, in having the 1905 version of The Jungle available in print. It contains, for example, explicit elaborations upon the "jungle" as a metaphor for capitalist civilization, as well as a direct mention of Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was a model for The Jungle. We need an authoritative scholarly edition of The Jungle that would demarcate precisely which passages were cut or altered between its 1905 and 1906 versions, with an introduction explaining, in a measured way, the significance of the changes. In the meantime, we have the See Sharp edition, hyperbolic to the point of irresponsibility.

Ironies abound in this situation. A radical publisher betrays suspicion of change. A supposedly truer text is promoted with claims contradicted by the evidence. An edition of a novel that indicts capitalism repeatedly for fleecing gullible consumers is advertised misleadingly. A publishing house that accuses all others of crass commercial motives happens upon a cash cow it is unlikely to relinquish.

The failure of the American left is less a result of censorship than of a paucity of ideas capable of winning over new audiences not yet committed to the cause. The left will never transcend the culture of capitalism unless it forgoes stratagems that advance neither social justice nor historical truth. The fault, dear Brutus, lies in ourselves.

Author's addendum (July 19, 2006): This morning I was going over some old research files and came across a personal letter written by Upton Sinclair in 1958. Here Sinclair states in clear, unequivocal language precisely what I argued in my article "The Fictitious Suppression of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle." This letter provides strong--one might say conclusive--confirmation of the historical narrative I offered above.

"The book was finished at the end of 1905," writes Sinclair, "and was not published until June of 1906. It started as a serial in the weekly Socialist paper, `The Appeal to Reason,' which at that time had a circulation of something like three-fourths of a million copies. It published large installments, I would say at a guess about a newspaper page; so all my revelations concerning conditions in the packing houses had been put before a huge public early in the year. I had been offering the manuscript of the book to publishers in New York--I think to five--without result. They were afraid of it, and finally growing desperate I decided to publish the book myself. I got Jack London to write his tremendous endorsement of the book. I announced the publication in `The Appeal to Reason,' and I was taking in several hundred orders a week. I had the plates made and paid for. Then--I have forgotten how--it occurred to me to offer the book to Doubleday-Page; and they immediately accepted it and agreed to take over my plates and to let me have and sell my own edition." (December 1, 1958)

To recapitulate: After the serial version of The Jungle appeared in The Appeal to Reason in 1905, Sinclair, unable to find a mainstream publisher, decided to publish the book himself. He pared down the text and had "the plates made and paid for" himself. Then he received a contract from Doubleday, Page. That publisher, in turn, used Sinclair's self-prepared plates when issuing the book in 1906, while allowing Sinclair to issue his sustainer's edition simultaneously. In short, The Jungle was printed by Doubleday in 1906 not in a censored form but just as Sinclair wished--indeed, from plates he himself had prepared.


DeGruson, Gene. The Lost First Edition of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Memphis: Peachtree, 1988.

Harris , Leon . Upton Sinclair: American Rebel. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1975.

Shore , Elliott . Talkin' Socialism: J. A. Wayland and the Role of the Press in American Radicalism, 1890-1912. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988.

Sinclair, Upton. A New Edition of The Jungle. Pasadena, California: Upton Sinclair, n.d. [1920].

--. American Outpost: A Book of Reminiscences. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1932.

--. The Autobiography of Upton Sinclair. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1962.

--. The Jungle. New York: Doubleday, Page, and Company, 1906.

--. The Jungle. New York: The Jungle Publishing Company, 1906.

--. The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition. Tucson, Arizona: See Sharp Press, 2003.

Subaius, Giedrius. Upton Sinclair: The Lithuanian Jungle. Amsterdam and New York: Editions Rodopi, 2006.

Upton Sinclair Manuscripts, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. [The specific letter cited in the main article is to William McDevitt, 3 September 1930, and is found in Correspondence, Box 13. The letter cited in the addendum is to G. L. Lewin, 1 December 1958, and is found in Correspondence, Box 59. Both letters are quoted courtesy of the Lilly Library, Indiana University.]

Addendum to original post: In a post above, an anonymous poster (one can guess who it is without too great an effort) states that my criticisms are explained by my editing of another edition of the novel. This is an ad hominem attack that merely muddies the waters. While my scholarship on another edition of the novel does explain how I came to have the knowledge to prove how distorted and false the See Sharp claims were, it is untrue that my objections have any commercial motivation whatsoever. If I wanted to sell more copies of my edition, there would be more time-efficient ways to do it than to criticize someone else's. Furthermore I have never criticized any other edition of the novel. My objections to the See Sharp edition are simply on the basis of its total lack of historical veracity. Read my full analysis, reasoning, and evidence -- and judge this matter for yourself.
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68 of 77 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Old classic in a safe form, April 10, 2008
Of the numerous editions of The Jungle that are in print, this version is reasonably good and presented in a scholarly form. However, this version of The Jungle is not the original form. It has been drastically cut in length, with much of the slaughterhouse gore removed and the ethnic material cut way back. Readers would be better to get the "Uncensored" verion of the novel put out by See Sharp Press.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll never look at a hotdog the same again ..., September 15, 2003
doc peterson (Portland, Oregon USA) - See all my reviews
Sinclair's _The Jungle_ is best known for its graphic and grisly details of the meat packing industry and the hazzards its products presented the public. This is all true, and those who are interested in looking for these descriptions will not be disappointed in the original edition of the book. However, there is another side to the story, one that is frequently overlooked: the social cost of industrialization, and the de-humanization of the labor force.
Equally horrifying to the processing of the food is the abominable working conditions and maladies those who worked in the packinghouses suffered - from those who de-boned shanks (with thier stubs of a thumb), to the workers who removed the hides from the caracasses (their hands all but eaten away from the chemicals they worked in) - and the list goes on and on ... not to mention the daily struggles the immigrants faced, at constant risk of being swindled or abused.
Sinclair was a socialist, and his political leanings are apparent in his classic book - yet this does not detract from the story; in fact, I would argue it only strengthens the force of his words. It is a marvelous read, but you'll never look at a hotdog the same again.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story, strong characters and a plea for social justice. Absolutely amazing!, December 28, 2009
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Published in 1906, this book is famous for exposing the unsanitary and disgusting practices of the meat processing industry in Chicago. I chose to read the original uncensored edition because I didn't want a whitewashed version. I was not disappointed. I got it all, in all its grisly details. Processed meat and sausages included diseased animal meat, rats, the filth on the floor and even the bodies of human workers who got sucked into the lard vats. Yes, these abuses were shocking and resulted in reform and new standards for the industry, but that was only one aspect of the book.

Central to the story is the plight of the workers and, indeed, that was Upton Sinclair's purpose as he went to Chicago on a stipend from a socialist newspaper to expose the exploitation of the factory workers. That is the central theme of the book and I found myself wincing throughout, not only because of the tubercular beef being sold to the public, but mostly because of the degradation of the human beings who were just cogs in the wheels of production.

The story is about a family of Lithuanian immigrants who came to America for a better life. From the very beginning, they were cheated. They were sold a substandard house and never told about the extra taxes, fees and clauses that would cause them to lose the house if they were late with their payments. They had to to walk several miles to work in the stockyards in the dead of winter with inadequate clothing. Children were forced to work too and one little boy lost some fingers from frostbite. Their wages didn't meet their needs and there were times there was no food at all. They could never afford doctors or medicine and if a member of a family was sick or injured that person lost his or her job.

I'll never forget the characters in the book. Ona and Jurgis are a young married couple who we meet at their wedding in the beginning of the book. They are young and they have hope. Jurgis is big and strong and easily gets a job. At first all seems well. But as the book progresses, we see how everyone in the family has no choice but to work. This includes the elderly father and the children. Later, when Jurgis hurts his foot in an accident, he is out of work for months and the family suffers. But even more horror is in store of the family. Mainly, we follow what happens to Jurgis as he loses his job, and circumstances spiral out of control. I felt real emotion for him and his family, amazed at out anyone could endure the hardships they had to face. Eventually the book winds up as the writer wanted it, with anger at the exploitation of the workers.

I loved this book. I read it all at once, starting it at three o'clock one afternoon and reading through most of the night until I finished it. I identified with each of the characters and was amazed at their forbearance and strength through all their adversity. Of course I had heard about these horrible conditions throughout my lifetime. But I never realized how bad they really were. This book opened my eyes. I don't know if I will ever be the same again.

I give this book my highest recommendation. It's not only a great story with great characters, it's a plea for social justice. And its impact can still be felt today.
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72 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bigger Version with More Kick, July 4, 2003
I first read Upton Sinclair's 1905 novel "The Jungle" about seven years ago. The author, a dedicated socialist during the turbulent times of industrial upheaval in America, wrote this novel to show the American public how bad the working conditions actually were in the packinghouses of Chicago. He also hoped to expose the poor treatment of immigrants and the shameless greed of big business. For all intensive purposes, Sinclair did succeed in raising awareness about the dangers of eating canned beef and other meat products that supposedly underwent rigorous government inspection and quality controls. "The Jungle" even inspired then President Theodore Roosevelt to institute stricter laws and greater administrative controls on the beef industry. Now, with the release of "The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition," it is possible to discover that Sinclair not only wished to show exactly how bad the meat supply really was, but that his most important goal involved revelations about the plight of the working poor struggling under the crushing weight of laissez-faire capitalism.
Jurgis Rudkos is Sinclair's protagonist here, a recent Lithuanian immigrant alighting on the shores of Chicago in search of the American dream of wealth and prestige. Jurgis brings several relatives and his fiancée with him, certain that with a new job in the city he will soon wed and raise a family. Rudkos and company soon learn the reality of their situation upon reaching Packingtown, the slums that surround the beef factories like concentric rings of misery that even Dante could not have foreseen. The Rudkos clan doesn't speak English, so they are at the mercy of nearly everyone around them. Jurgis and several of his relatives manage to land jobs at the factories, but soon discover that these jobs are nightmares of depravity involving insanely long working hours, cruel bosses, low pay barely adequate for basic human needs, and filthy conditions. At first, Jurgis doesn't care how bad it is; he knows if he and the members of his family work hard they may eventually afford to purchase a house. This they do, but soon discover that the costs of insurance, interest, and taxes will keep them in a constant state of turmoil. If even one person in the family loses their job, the whole clan faces eviction and eventual doom. As the years pass, Jurgis and those he loves face one calamity after another. Lost jobs, dishonest government and vendors, disease, crime, and debt all take a devastating toll. There is little happiness residing in the pages of this book.
Sinclair's purpose with this book is to tout the panacea of socialism in a world that many increasingly saw as controlled by rampant big business. The last half of the story is essentially a socialist pamphlet singing the praises of the working class and how the people need to take back their institutions by reining in corporations. The author rebuts standard arguments favoring capitalism while presenting socialism as salvation incarnate. Whether you agree with socialist dogma or not, it is not difficult to understand why people favored such a worldview in an era when government regulation was non-existent or nearly so. Not surprisingly, unions get a fair amount of support from Sinclair to the extent that they are about the only organization willing to oppose the greed of the meatpackers. In short, "The Jungle" takes business to task while championing the little guy.
This new edition culled Sinclair's original text from a socialist organ entitled "Appeal to Reason." The author later tried to publish this version but ran into numerous obstacles from mainstream publishers who worried about lawsuits from the beef trust, the unsettling descriptions of factory life, and the author's unwavering support for immigrants. Sinclair eventually made the changes to the text in order to get the book published, figuring it was important to get some of the message out there then none at all. An introduction in this edition argues that the restored changes show how the author's focus was really on foreign workers, not necessarily the grotesque atmosphere of the slaughterhouses. Sinclair himself stated that he "aimed for the public's heart but hit them in the stomach instead." After reading this version of "The Jungle," it does seem as though the primary intention of the book was to emphasize the plight of Jurgis and the millions of other poor souls trapped in the insanity of a greedy industry. However, it is hard to read this book and not cringe over the lengthy passages outlining the disgusting practices that led to tainted meat and the spread of disease through such products as tinned beef. Arguably the most powerful section of the book discusses in depth the results of a strike in Chicago involving all of the meatpacking houses. Sinclair is at the height of his descriptive powers as he takes the reader on a tour of the factories locked in the throes of scab warfare and even more disgusting factory conditions. This is powerful stuff.
Nearly one hundred years after "The Jungle," Upton Sinclair remains the best remembered muckraker of the era. Having read both versions available, I have to conclude that reading either edition is equally effective. I only read this new treatment because I like to read unabridged or uncontaminated copies of any book. The uncensored edition adds about five chapters to the story, but it doesn't really make it that much longer since the chapters are all relatively short. Upton Sinclair fans will most certainly want to acquire this edition of the book to see what they have been missing all these years.
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The Jungle (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) (B&N Classics)
The Jungle (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) (B&N Classics) by Upton Sinclair (Mass Market Paperback - April 1, 2003)
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