109 of 112 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2009
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.
85 of 87 people found the following review helpful
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.
92 of 101 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2000
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.
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2002
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.
69 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on 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.
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 1999
Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, leads you through the heart-wrenching tale of a family of poor Lithuanian immigrants. His description is so amazing that you can actually envision the filth of the stockyards, smell the stench, and feel the pain and suffering of the poor, good-hearted immigrants. From the minute they arrive in America, they are faced with nothing but hardships, struggling to survive. The characters and the storylines were very realistic. This story was so real to me, that I actually got nightmares. My only dissappointment with the novel was the ending. I was hoping for something more about Jurgis and the family, but instead got a heavy speech on socialism. Socialism was a good turn for Jurgis, but I feel the story would have been a bit better if it had ended more personally, on his part. Overall, this was an excellent book. I think that everyone should read it becuase it has so much to offer. It not only gives us a vivid depiction of that period in time, it is overwhelming with emotion. It is a major contribution to our history.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2002
Upton Sinclair's the Jungle is a distressing and touching story of the immigrant life in America during the early years of this century. Jurgis, Ona, and their families came to America from Lithuania to live a better life. After some time, reality set it. Their faith in America remained though. America was not what they had expected, especially once Ona and Jurgis were married. There was a constant pressure to work, but no matter where they turned they were poverty-stricken. Jurgis insisted Ona not work, but their financial situation demanded her to. This historically accurate book displays and reveals the horrific factory work and the workers suffering. Jurgis job descriptions were unbelievable. He was asked to stay after one day from work to butcher pregnant cows and cows that had gone down or ones that were sick and had boils all over them. Their meat was then mixed with all the uncontaminated meat. Jurgis then realized how the packers operated. They sold this spoiled, contaminated, or adulterated meat without thinking twice. The workers were exposed to horrible diseases, had to work harsh working condition, were not paid for days off. The employers did not care because if they quit or would not do the work, there were plenty of people who would do the work and needed a job. Throughout the novel, it seems no matter where the family turns they cannot get ahead. After Antanas, wife Ona, and his two sons die, and Jurgis is forced to give up the house, he enters crime with a friend he met in jail. Jurgis found out quickly just how corrupt Chicago and city government was.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2006
Perhaps one of the most significant and influential American novels written, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair reveals the flipside to the American Dream. Jurgis Rudkus, the main character, is a Lithuanian immigrant who is at first gleeful and awed by his new homeland, America. Jurgis and his family travel to Chicago and settle in Chicago's Packingtown, one of the largest meat packing cities in the United States. As Jurgis and most of his family are employed in their inhospitable jobs, their ignorance about the American Dream is agonizingly chipped away as they experience first hand the abuses of a capitalistic, greedy, and monopolistic society. And, as they pack the rotting and rat infested meat, they revealed what Americans were really eating. Through their harrowing experiences, Capitalism is portrayed as man's enemy that viciously exploits and manipulates its workers for a profit. Jurgis eventually understands after losing his job, losing his family, being arrested, and becoming a criminal and political crook that Capitalism must be eliminated and that Socialism must be established for the betterment of man. The Jungle continues to embody the spirit of reform because issues such as forced prostitution, child labor, false advertising, unhealthful living conditions, and unsanitary food preparation continue to riddle societies throughout the world. After Sinclair admitted, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach," Americans went on a crusade to reform society and rid it of its ills. Whether one is eating a hamburger, or buying a product from a store, they can thank Sinclair that they are not eating freshly ground rats with synthetic ketchup.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2006
I have been meaning to read this book for years as it's always been heralded as a monumental book that changed the meat packing industry and workers' rights in the early 20th century. Upon finally reading it this year (2006) I was stunned - mainly because I had read Fast Food Nation a few years ago and many things described in The Jungle had similarily been described in Fast Food Nation, which was written in 2005. The workers have simply shifted - instead of coming from Europe they are now from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
No doubt this book is eye opening - to the struggle of immigrants looking for a better place, to workers' rights (and lack thereof), to regulations of the food industry, to bribery and general disregard of the law due to greed. The ordeals and struggles Jurgis deals with are unbelieveable and when reading you'll keep thinking "Well, it can't get any worse" and yet somehow it does.
I did have a few difficulties in reading the book. First, for some reason I had (wrongly) assumed this was a non-fiction book ever since I read about it in Jr. High History class. This is a fiction novel, however it is based on Sinclair's studies of the meat packing industry and the tenements. Second, the characters are mostly of Lithuanian descent with extremely complex names. I had a bit of trouble keeping up with who everyone was in the beginning and kept getting everyone confused for the first 50 or so pages.
A general dislike from many readers is the ending. Throughout the book, Jurgis is depicted a simple country man, just wanting to earn a decent living and support his family. You do see his evolution in learning how to "work the system" to his advantage as he becomes more and more disenchanted with his new surroundings. Towards the end of the book, he finds Socialism. However, it's almost as if Sinclair forgets who his character is. While Jurgis might have found Socialism on his own and become extremely passionate, he would not have spoke in such educated and expressive words that Sinclair portrays. The end comes across as feeling "tacked on" by Sinclair himself and seem as if you are reading the end of a completely different novel. Still, this book is worth the read for the first several hundred pages anyway.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2001
If you are considering reading this book: 1) Read it! 2) Read the novel, then the excellent introduction (I've never read an introduction I liked so well.) I recommend you read this book not because it is such an incredible piece of literature but because of it's importance when it came out. The novel's central story is what happens to an immigrant family working in the Chicago stockyards in the early 1900s. Some reviewers have blasted the book's pro-Socialism, anti-capitalism slant. I think that is a bit silly; the last few pages are somewhat of a Socialist manifesto, but it doesn't interfere with the rest of the novel being an interesting read. While every conceivable bad thing happens to the protagonist, and while such occurrences may seem outlandish and unlikely, it is still important for us to consider that they could have happened; it is still important for us to consider how such calamities and uneducated choices can shape our lives. When the book was published, public attention focused not on the plight of the immigrant protagonist, but on the conditions in the packing plants and slaughterhouses. Sinclair meticulously researched this part of the book, and all his claims were supported but one (that of a man ending up in a bucket of lard). I have been to present day slaughterhouses and packing plants, and I know that conditions today are sanitary and humane for the most part. However, the book gave me an appreciation that this was not always the case. As you read the novel, consider your reaction if you had been reading it when it was first published; consider also the choices you would have made as the immigrant protagonist.