The Jungle

The Jungle

3.8 385
by Upton Sinclair

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The Jungle's influence has been extraordinary for a literary work. Upton Sinclair's 1906 landmark novel is widely credited with awakening the public fury that led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906), a watershed in consumer protection and government legislation. This story of the immigrant experience in the harrowing Chicago stockyards has drawn…  See more details below


The Jungle's influence has been extraordinary for a literary work. Upton Sinclair's 1906 landmark novel is widely credited with awakening the public fury that led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906), a watershed in consumer protection and government legislation. This story of the immigrant experience in the harrowing Chicago stockyards has drawn comment from historians, policymakers, and literary critics, and it is a widely assigned teaching text.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Mr. Sinclair in The Jungle has given the world a close, a striking, and, we may say, in many ways a brilliant study of the great industries of Chicago. . . . The language Mr. Sinclair employs is appropriate to the scene, the action, and the characters of his drama. . . . The experienced reader will at once perceive that Mr. Sinclair has taken Zola for his model. The likeness is more than striking -- it fairly forces itself upon the attention of the reader. . . .He has not written a second Uncle Tom's Cabin. -- New York Times review, March 1906; Books of the Century
From the Publisher
“When people ask me what has happened in my long lifetime I do not refer them to the newspaper files and to the authorities, but to [Sinclair’s] novels.” —George Bernard Shaw

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Chapter I

It was four o’clock when the ceremony was over and the carriages began to arrive. There had been a crowd following all the way, owing to the exuberance of Marija Berczynskas. The occasion rested heavily upon Marija’s broad shoulders—it was her task to see that all things went in due form, and after the best home traditions; and, flying wildly hither and thither, bowling every one out of the way, and scolding and exhorting all day with her tremendous voice, Marija was too eager to see that others conformed to the proprieties to consider them herself. She had left the church last of all, and, desiring to arrive first at the hall, had issued orders to the coachman to drive faster. When that personage had developed a will of his own in the matter, Marija had flung up the window of the carriage, and, leaning out, proceeded to tell him her opinion of him, first in Lithuanian, which he did not understand, and then in Polish, which he did. Having the advantage of her in altitude, the driver had stood his ground and even ventured to attempt to speak; and the result had been a furious altercation, which, continuing all the way down Ashland Avenue, had added a new swarm of urchins to the cortège at each side street for half a mile.

This was unfortunate, for already there was a throng before the door. The music had started up, and half a block away you could hear the dull “broom, broom” of a ’cello, with the squeaking of two fiddles which vied with each other in intricate and altitudinous gymnastics. Seeing the throng, Marija abandoned precipitately the debate concerning the ancestors of her coachman, and, springing from the moving carriage, plunged in and proceeded to clear a way to the hall. Once within, she turned and began to push the other way, roaring, meantime, “Eik! Eik! Uzdaryk-duris!” in tones which made the orchestral uproar sound like fairy music.

“Z. Graiczunas, Pasilinksminimams darzas. Vynas. Sznapsas. Wines and Liquors. Union Headquarters”—that was the way the signs ran. The reader, who perhaps has never held much converse in the language of far-off Lithuania, will be glad of the explanation that the place was the rear-room of a saloon in that part of Chicago known as “back of the yards.” This information is definite and suited to the matter of fact; but how pitifully inadequate it would have seemed to one who understood that it was also the supreme hour of ecstasy in the life of one of God’s gentlest creatures, the scene of the wedding-feast and the joy-transfiguration of little Ona Lukoszaite!

She stood in the doorway, shepherded by Cousin Marija, breath- less from pushing through the crowd, and in her happiness painful to look upon. There was a light of wonder in her eyes and her lids trembled, and her otherwise wan little face was flushed. She wore a muslin dress, conspicuously white, and a stiff little veil coming to her shoulders. There were five pink paper-roses twisted in the veil, and eleven bright green rose-leaves. There were new white cotton gloves upon her hands, and as she stood staring about her she twisted them together feverishly. It was almost too much for her—you could see the pain of too great emotion in her face, and all the tremor of her form. She was so young—not quite sixteen—and small for her age, a mere child; and she had just been married—and married to Jurgis,1 of all men, to Jurgis Rudkus, he with the white flower in the buttonhole of his new black suit, he with the mighty shoulders and the giant hands.

1. Pronounced Yoorghis.

Ona was blue-eyed and fair, while Jurgis had great black eyes with beetling brows, and thick black hair that curled in waves about his ears—in short, they were one of those incongruous and impos- sible married couples with which Mother Nature so often wills to confound all prophets, before and after. Jurgis could take up a two-hundred-and-fifty-pound quarter of beef and carry it into a car without a stagger, or even a thought; and now he stood in a far corner, frightened as a hunted animal, and obliged to moisten his lips with his tongue each time before he could answer the congratulations of his friends.

Gradually there was effected a separation between the spectators and the guests—a separation at least sufficiently complete for working purposes. There was no time during the festivities which ensued when there were not groups of onlookers in the doorways and the corners; and if any one of these onlookers came sufficiently close, or looked sufficiently hungry, a chair was offered him, and he was invited to the feast. It was one of the laws of the veselija that no one goes hungry; and, while a rule made in the forests of Lithuania is hard to apply in the stockyards district of Chicago, with its quarter of a million inhabi- tants, still they did their best, and the children who ran in from the street, and even the dogs, went out again happier. A charming informality was one of the characteristics of this celebration. The men wore their hats, or, if they wished, they took them off, and their coats with them; they ate when and where they pleased, and moved as often as they pleased. There were to be speeches and singing, but no one had to listen who did not care to; if he wished, meantime, to speak or sing himself, he was perfectly free. The resulting medley of sound distracted no one, save possibly alone the babies, of which there were present a number equal to the total possessed by all the guests invited. There was no other place for the babies to be, and so part of the preparations for the evening consisted of a collection of cribs and carriages in one corner. In these the babies slept, three or four together, or wakened together, as the case might be. Those who were still older, and could reach the tables, marched about munching contentedly at meat-bones and bologna sausages.

The room is about thirty feet square, with whitewashed walls, bare save for a calendar, a picture of a race-horse, and a family tree in a gilded frame. To the right there is a door from the saloon, with a few loafers in the doorway, and in the corner beyond it a bar, with a presiding genius clad in soiled white, with waxed black mustaches and a carefully oiled curl plastered against one side of his forehead. In the opposite corner are two tables, filling a third of the room and laden with dishes and cold viands, which a few of the hungrier guests are already munching. At the head, where sits the bride, is a snow-white cake, with an Eiffel tower of constructed decoration, with sugar roses and two angels upon it, and a generous sprinkling of pink and green and yellow candies. Beyond opens a door into the kitchen, where there is a glimpse to be had of a range with much steam ascending from it, and many women, old and young, rushing hither and thither. In the corner to the left are the three musicians, upon a little platform, toiling heroically to make some impression upon the hubbub; also the babies, similarly occupied, and an open window whence the populace imbibes the sights and sounds and odors.

Suddenly some of the steam begins to advance, and, peering through it, you discern Aunt Elizabeth, Ona’s stepmother—Teta Elzbieta, as they call her—bearing aloft a great platter of stewed duck. Behind her is Kotrina, making her way cautiously, staggering beneath a similar burden; and half a minute later there appears old Grandmother Majauszkiene, with a big yellow bowl of smoking potatoes, nearly as big as herself. So, bit by bit, the feast takes form—there is a ham and a dish of sauerkraut, boiled rice, macaroni, bologna sausages, great piles of penny buns, bowls of milk, and foaming pitchers of beer. There is also, not six feet from your back, the bar, where you may order all you please and do not have to pay for it. “Eiksz! Graicziau!” screams Marija Berczynskas, and falls to work herself—for there is more upon the stove inside that will be spoiled if it be not eaten.

So, with laughter and shouts and endless badinage and merriment, the guests take their places. The young men, who for the most part have been huddled near the door, summon their resolution and advance; and the shrinking Jurgis is poked and scolded by the old folks until he consents to seat himself at the right hand of the bride. The two bridesmaids, whose insignia of office are paper wreaths, come next, and after them the rest of the guests, old and young, boys and girls. The spirit of the occasion takes hold of the stately bartender, who condescends to a plate of stewed duck; even the fat policeman—whose duty it will be, later in the evening, to break up the fights—draws up a chair to the foot of the table. And the children shout and the babies yell, and every one laughs and sings and chatters—while above all the deafening clamor Cousin Marija shouts orders to the musicians.

The musicians—how shall one begin to describe them? All this time they have been there, playing in a mad frenzy—all of this scene must be read, or said, or sung, to music. It is the music which makes it what it is; it is the music which changes the place from the rear-room of a saloon in back of the yards to a fairy place, a wonderland, a little corner of the high mansions of the sky.

The little person who leads this trio is an inspired man. His fiddle is out of tune, and there is no rosin on his bow, but still he is an inspired man—the hands of the muses have been laid upon him. He plays like one possessed by a demon, by a whole horde of demons. You can feel them in the air round about him, capering frenetically; with their invisible feet they set the pace, and the hair of the leader of the orchestra rises on end, and his eyeballs start from their sockets, as he toils to keep up with them.

Tamoszius Kuszleika is his name, and he has taught himself to play the violin by practising all night, after working all day on the “killing beds.” He is in his shirt sleeves, with a vest figured with faded gold horseshoes, and a pink-striped shirt, suggestive of peppermint candy. A pair of military trousers, light blue with a yellow stripe, serve to give that suggestion of authority proper to the leader of a band. He is only about five feet high, but even so these trousers are about eight inches short of the ground. You wonder where he can have gotten them—or rather you would wonder, if the excitement of being in his presence left you time to think of such things.

For he is an inspired man. Every inch of him is inspired—you might almost say inspired separately. He stamps with his feet, he tosses his head, he sways and swings to and fro; he has a wizened-up little face, irresistibly comical; and, when he executes a turn or a flourish, his brows knit and his lips work and his eyelids wink—the very ends of his necktie bristle out. And every now and then he turns upon his companions, nodding, signalling, beckoning frantically—with every inch of him appealing, imploring, in behalf of the muses and their call.

For they are hardly worthy of Tamoszius, the other two members of the orchestra. The second violin is a Slovak, a tall, gaunt man with black-rimmed spectacles and the mute and patient look of an overdriven mule; he responds to the whip but feebly, and then always falls back into his old rut. The third man is very fat, with a round, red, sentimental nose, and he plays with his eyes turned up to the sky and a look of infinite yearning. He is playing a bass part upon his ’cello, and so the excitement is nothing to him; no matter what happens in the treble, it is his task to saw out one long-drawn and lugubrious note after another, from four o’clock in the afternoon until nearly the same hour next morning, for his third of the total income of one dollar per hour.

Before the feast has been five minutes under way, Tamoszius Kuszleika has risen in his excitement; a minute or two more and you see that he is beginning to edge over toward the tables. His nostrils are dilated and his breath comes fast—his demons are driving him. He nods and shakes his head at his companions, jerking at them with his violin, until at last the long form of the second violinist also rises up. In the end all three of them begin advancing, step by step, upon the banqueters, Valentinavyczia, the ’cellist, bumping along with his instrument between notes. Finally all three are gathered at the foot of the tables, and there Tamoszius mounts upon a stool.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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From the Publisher
“When people ask me what has happened in my long lifetime I do not refer them to the newspaper files and to the authorities, but to [Sinclair’s] novels.” —George Bernard Shaw

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The Jungle 3.8 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 388 reviews.
AggieFencer More than 1 year ago
I read this book back when I was in middle school and to this day (starting graduate school soon) it still remains my favorite book of all time. Even though I am a Laissez-faire Capitalist and am not too fond of the last chapter, I am a vegetarian and someone who is going into public service. I still find it interesting that Sinclair's book had to be toned down because if he had described the situation even more accurately, readers wouldn't have been able to keep down their lunches. I love how he tells the story of this immigrant family. The first chapter is a little slow, but it really helps the reader to understand how difficult it can be to blend two cultures.. and it is also symbolic because the tail end of the wedding celebration foreshadows the family's hardships that are later to come. If you have never read this book.. please do so ASAP.
Phylls Mcdonald More than 1 year ago
So I just purchased this classic for $.99 cents. Know why its si cheap? Because you can only read the ad, over and over again. This book I am so eager to read is held just out of reach. ANY MORE OF THESE goof ups and I'll switch to Kindle!!!!! And guess what nook won't let me post my complaint!!!
Rex Cooper More than 1 year ago
My book would not open eithet. Too bad B&N will not fix it
AGNYC More than 1 year ago
This version of the ebook will not download to my Nook on several attempts OR either of the 2 iPads that I attempted on. When I contact customer service about this they were NO help at all and would not give a refund for a book that would not download.
Venesa Delgado More than 1 year ago
Shouldve read the reviews first. Does not open at all. Do not purchase.
Carolyn Jordan More than 1 year ago
does not work. wish i had bothered to read the reviews
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am 16 years old and reading this for my book report. Upton Sinclair really packs a punch with his powerful writing that describes the lives of immigrants from Lithuania. Even though this is a fictional story, we learn that America isn't the go-lucky country of freedom for all. Most of these immigrants came here in search of better wages and release from their former autocratic regimes, but soon learned the harsh reality which surrounded their hope of freedom. These Lithuanian immigrants suffer from unsanitary housing, and meager wages in an horrible working environment. This extremely detailed book is a MUST read for our 'spoiled' teenagers, (eh hehm... students from beverly hills high school...) who haven't learned the true value of a dollar.
SpryGuy More than 1 year ago
I bought this book but couldn't open it. I called tech support. The agent had me archive the book and unarchive it, but that didn't help. Then she had me download a free book to make sure I had a good internet connection, which I did have. Then she downloaded the book and tried to open it, but she couldn't. So she thanked me for bringing to B&N's attention the fact that this book is defective, and she told me that my credit card would be credited in 2-3 business days. Thirty business days have gone by and my card has not been credited.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
   SPOILER WARNING: The book chronicles the story of a young man named Jurgis Rudkus, a polish immigrant who is trying to make a living at a meat packing industry in order to provide for his family. The novel itself is beautiful and horrifying, giving scrutinizing detail about the horrors of the early 1900’s and its gruesome labor laws. The family is constantly struggling to get by with each member slowly needing to get jobs in order to support their cost of living. Rudkus loves his family, but after 12 hour shifts at the factory he begins to spend his hard earned cash at the bar in order to take the sting of daily monotonous routines. The tale becomes more and more gruesome and eventually Rudkus runs away to the countryside to start his own life, only to return and find his sister has become a prostitute. This rage and anger eventually and almost ironically turns him into a supporter of communism, who fight for workers’ rights.  I love the story not only because of how apparently awful labor laws were back then, but also because it was a book that inspired change, but not the way it was intended. While Upton Sinclair wrote the book for a change in how labor laws were looked at, the real issue that people were concerned with was the meat packing industry. Rudkus recalls in his work experience that meat would just fall into the sawdust and no one washed their hands when handling different types of meat. Rudkus even recalls of how rats would run across the fallen meat and this was just common circumstance. The book inspired such outrage and disbelief that Roosevelt looked into and realized the horror, and so the FDA was born because of one book. The sheer weight of a book carrying such influence that it changes the entire functioning of an industry and becomes much grander than itself I find truly inspirational. This is why I feel enlightenment is so important, a whole nation of people were ignorant to the things they would put into their stomachs until a simple book came along and revealed the horror. Sure, people may not want to hear an ugly truth, but when diseased meat is shipped out daily it can be assumed that perhaps enlightenment should prevail over ignorance.    
tommythomas1951 More than 1 year ago
This book does not open on my nook even though it shows as being on the nook. When I called customer service, I was met with an assistant that had an ATTITUDE of major proportions. She had me unregister my nook and then reregister it but when I could not find my network password she goes off and says that B&N does not have any control of my wireless system -- like I didn't know. If there is a way to report this UNFRIENDLY person I sure would like to know. How am I going to get my refund -- I am going to dispute my charge and let B&N explain it to the credit card company. I AM VERY DISAPPOINTED!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Even though I'm only fourteen, this book has impacted me so much. I find this book to be amazing. I think that Sinclair is an excellent writer, with much to tell about his experiences. He portrayed Jurgis and his family of clueless, poor immigrants with spot on writing. I highly reccomend this book. Not only does it reveal the appalling labor & food conditions, it reveals the condition of regular 'city life' in Packingtown. It also reveals the kind of life that immigrants had to endure coming into a seemingly perfect life. The writing itself was so intricate, that you can't help but keep reading on. So, obviously, read this! At first, it was super confusing. After getting further into it, I wouldn't dare put it down, to let the story of Jurgis unfold. Thank you, Upton Sinclair, and Barnes & Noble!
KaWIlli More than 1 year ago
I had always heard about the impact this book had on the food industry and how the public viewed working conditions, but it took reading it to really understand why. Not only does it chronicle the disgusting conditions in Chicago, but it also tells a fascinating political story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've heard about this book for years and thought it would be a good summer read. I found it interesting and heart wrenching. It was obviously quite an eye opener at one time and sad to realize America (in part) treated its immigrants this way. I was extremely disappointed in the ending. I would not read it again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow food sanitary conditions got me but the biggest thing that is burning in my brain was the working condition these characters n real people went threw. Just made me rethink where my food is really comming from lets guess abused drugged animals caged a person named hector whom is over worked extreme low paid and in very unsanitary conditions n not just meat how many times have produce been recalled things havent change i think i was taught to look away insted of whats the real picture
Jessel7496 More than 1 year ago
I had to read this for history class and I'm GLAD I DID! This book is so much fun to read and worth buying. Great book!
Alan Fincher More than 1 year ago
How does BN rate books? The 2.5 is not an avg of reviewers. Although i agree with megin on principle, i wonder if she has actually opened this version. Has anyone been able to get a refund yet?
megin More than 1 year ago
This book has always been one of my absolute favorites. Upton Sinclair (thankfully!) had part in changing how we live today, by bringing to light the horrible conditions in the meat industry. His work led to the "passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which established the Bureau of Chemistry that would become the Food and Drug Administration in 1930." With his research and publishing all completed before he even hit 30 years old.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this novel for AP U.S. History class. I, like others, understood the immense impact this novel posed on American society and legislature at the time. However, I found this book to be a very boring read; it takes a long time to read a simple chapter, and Sinclair's writing is horrid - the grammar is completely wrong, and semi colons are applied where there should be commas! The story drags on and on, from one tragedy to another, and one may dread having to turn to the next chapter or even the next page. I was assigned to read the novels "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which also had a profound effect on American society, and "A Rise to Rebellion." I enjoyed both of those novels; but as for "The Jungle": two thumbs down. Here's a word of advice to those students that have to read this novel: read about 30 pages a day and no more than that. In other words, read little by little, and plan to spend a little over a week on it. To those that wish to read it for pleasure: good luck.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thank you Upton Sinclair! Sinclair took his bold views and went against the corporate machine, exposing the ill treatment of workers during his time. Not only that, but the hazardous working conditions and the gross sanitation practices. Don't read this right after eating. Thanks to Mr. Sinclair, the Food Industry was forced to change for the health and safety of not only the workers, but for the consumers as well.
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Anonymous 10 months ago
This book is a socialism recruiting tool, but makes a very educational read.
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