I am currently taking a break from
making a giant mess painting the hallway to do another book post since I have been slacking majorly on them. Lately, I have been so busy that I have only been able to get any reading in on my lunch breaks at work, alas. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is a novel depicting poverty, the absence of social programs, unpleasant living and working conditions, and the hopelessness among the working class, due in large part by the corruption of people in power.
Plot: Jurgis Rudkus is a Lithuanian migrant trying to make ends meet in Chicago. The book begins with his wedding to 15 year old Ona Lukoszaite, who is also Lithuanian. They settle with their family in Chicago's Packingtown district, in the hopes of making a decent life for themselves. They soon learn the horrors of poverty, as the working conditions are too much for all of the family members, when there are even jobs available. They fall prey to con-men, black mail, and even death.
This book exposed the practices in the meat packing industry in the early 20th century, concerning many Americans. Sinclair wrote the novel after spending several weeks working incognito in the Chicago stockyards before publishing this first in a newspaper, then in a novel. A film adaptation was made, but has since been considered lost.
This was a very well-written book, and was shocking as well as heart-breaking. Not only did Upton Sinclair succeed in painting a mental image of how horrifying life was for the working class during that time, but he also created characters that the reader becomes attached to, even going as far as referring Jurgis as "our friend" several times in the novel. Sinclair also succeeded in making me even more leery of proceed foods, even though times have obviously changed since then. Either way, an excellent read indeed.