The Jungle (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.


Upton Sinclair’s muckraking masterpiece The Jungle centers on Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant working in Chicago’s infamous Packingtown. Instead of finding the American Dream, Rudkus and his family inhabit a brutal, soul-crushing urban jungle dominated by greedy bosses, pitiless con-men, and corrupt politicians.

While Sinclair’s main target was the industry’s appalling labor conditions, the reading public was most outraged by the disgusting filth and contamination in American food that his novel exposed. As a result, President Theodore Roosevelt demanded an official investigation, which quickly led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug laws. For a work of fiction to have such an impact outside its literary context is extremely rare. (At the time of The Jungle’s publication in 1906, the only novel to have led to social change on a similar scale in America was Uncle Tom’s Cabin.)

Today, The Jungle remains a relevant portrait of capitalism at its worst and an impassioned account of the human spirit facing nearly insurmountable challenges.

Maura Spiegel teaches literature and film at Columbia University and Barnard College. She is the coauthor of The Grim Reader and The Breast Book: An Intimate and Curious History. She coedits Literature and Medicine, a journal.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593080082
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 5/1/2003
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Standard Edition (1906)
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 268,956
  • Product dimensions: 6.74 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Maura Spiegel teaches literature and film at Columbia University and Barnard College. She is the coauthor of The Grim Reader and The Breast Book: An Intimate and Curious History. She coedits Literature and Medicine, a journal.

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Read an Excerpt

From Maura Spiegel's Introduction to The Jungle

Upton Sinclair described the site of Chicago's meatpacking industry, Packingtown, as "the greatest aggregation of labor and capital ever gathered in one place." The supreme achievement of American capitalism, Sinclair would undertake to reveal, was also its greatest disgrace. At the age of twenty-six, Sinclair set out to write The Jungle in the spirit of Saint George battling the dragon. His was an age of capitalist Titans, of magnates whose wealth, power, and hubris seemed unlimited: A single man owned a million acres of the Texas Panhandle, an American coal tycoon attempted to buy the Great Wall of China, and in the Midwest a combination known as the Beef Trust tightly controlled the production and sale of meat through pervasive wage and price fixing and the unrelenting exploitation of the stockyard workforce. Sinclair's was also an age when writers, both journalists and novelists, were experiencing a thrilling sense of their own efficacy. The investigative exposé-what President Theodore Roosevelt would unflatteringly dub "muckraking," after the character in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress (1678, 1684) who could "look no way but downward, with a muckrake in his hands"-had taken the magazine and publishing world by storm, had grabbed hold of the popular reader, and was shining a bright light on the ever-darkening realms of child labor, prisons, insurance companies, and, foremost, American enterprise and its role in the creation of a new American class of impoverished industrial wage slaves.

With their tremendous descriptive and explanatory power, books such as Henry Demarest Lloyd's Wealth against Commonwealth (1894), a study of American business syndicates and trusts, Ida Tarbell's History of the Standard Oil Company (1904), and Lincoln Steffens's The Shame of the Cities (1904), an exposé of municipal corruption and the ties between government and business in six American cities, had a significant impact on public debate, turning uncertainty into indignation and despair into outrage. Combining rigorous research and firsthand reporting with moralistic rhetoric, these works revealed how the contemporary world worked, how businesses were being transformed into empires, and how these empires were bleeding the public in an exploitative relationship starkly delineated by Lloyd on the first page of Wealth against Commonwealth (see "For Further Reading"): "Holding back the riches of earth, sea, and sky from their fellows who famish and freeze in the dark, they [the syndicates and trusts] . . . assert the right, for their private profit, to regulate the consumption by the people of the necessaries of life, and to control production, not by the needs of humanity, but by the desires of few for dividends."

Energized by their sense of mission, these journalists also understood that at that moment, when magazines and books were reaching wider audiences than ever before, there was no more powerful means at their disposal than the written word. They had a confidence in the power of their medium that writers seldom experience today. Not yet competing with motion pictures, either dramatic or documentary, these writers seemed to understand that, for the moment at least, the written word was the document of truth. Even photographs could not vie with narrative for getting at what was real. Consider, in this regard, the reader's first exposure to the packing yards in The Jungle, when Jurgis and his family take a tour. As spectators, outsiders, what they see is an immensely impressive system; Jurgis himself is full of admiration; the family is "breathless with wonder" at the magnitude, the efficiency; "it seemed to them impossible of belief that anything so stupendous could have been devised by mortal man." This first impression, like a panoramic set of photographs, lacked narrative dimension. As the novel unfolds, we discover, along with Jurgis, that only through time and its unraveling- that is, through narrative-can the real meaning of these impressive images be disclosed and comprehended.

Given the great success of the muckraking journalists, and Sinclair's admiration for them (including his friend Lincoln Steffens), it is worth examining why Sinclair did not choose to write his Packingtown book as a journalistic exposé, especially considering that he had written a series of articles on the failed meatpackers strike of 1904. In choosing fiction over a journalistic account, Sinclair was responding to a moment when novelists were also taking on the real and exploring new techniques for storytelling, and as a consequence enjoying a heady period of reinvigoration and a renewed sense of their own persuasive power. Frank Norris, whose highly successful The Octopus (1901) was based on an actual clash in 1880 between farmers in California's San Joaquin valley and the Southern Pacific Railroad, wrote in a 1902 essay:

If the novel were not one of the most important factors of modern life, . . . if its influence were not greater than all the pulpits, than all the newspapers between the oceans, it would not be so important that its message should be true. . . . [The people] look to-day as they never have looked before, as they never will look again, to the writer of fiction to give them an idea of Life beyond their limits, and they believe him as they never have believed before and never will again" ("The Responsibilities of the Novelist," Critic 16, December 1902; in Documents of American Realism and Naturalism, edited by Donald Pizer). Novelists had their own distinct aims and responsibilities, not only to represent "the true" but to give symbolic dimension to the new and strange. They sought to find language to describe the urban blight that was growing and spreading at frightening speed, drawing a vast population to toil and live in a new kind of poverty, to struggle against a new kind of filth and stench, to look upon a new kind of ugliness, and to endure new illnesses, injuries, and perils. The speed at which change was occurring intensified the sense that these transmutations were unstoppable. (In 1864 the Chicago meatpacking plants and stockyards were built, and were up and running within a matter of six months; within a short time every railroad that entered Chicago went to the yards, creating a ribbon of 100 miles of track surrounding the new plants that grew to 250 miles by 1905.) Such vastness and efficiency possessed the power to awe, and to overwhelm. Sinclair, and writers of his school, sought to represent the inhuman magnitude of industrial expansion, but also to give it symbolic shape-a human comprehensibility.

Although Sinclair portrays the crushing, machine-like force of a man-made hell, he turned for his title to an image from the natural world (as Frank Norris had done in choosing the octopus to describe the spread of the railway), to a place that, particularly in this period, evoked a sense of primal fear, a "heart of darkness." The Jungle represented a setting inhospitable to human life, where "civilized" man does not thrive, where life is an unrelenting and ultimately a dehumanizing battle. From our perspective, at the other end of the twentieth century, Sinclair's world had yet to arrive at the shared symbolic reference points for man-made horror provided for us by systematic genocide, concentration camps, and industrial warfare.

For many writers of this new school of realism (or what some describe as Naturalism, which I discuss below), there was a sense of liberation from the requirement to tell a story; now the conditions of life were the story. (If for postmodernist writers, reality is no longer realistic, for writers of this period, reality was a new frontier, vivid and legible.) Exploring new narrative structures, novelists, following Émile Zola's lead, were hanging their narratives on the framework not of an individual life, but of an industry or the history of a commodity. Zola had built his novels around coal mines, the emergence of the department store, stock market speculation, even a Parisian laundry. But when Sinclair determined to write a novel about the packing yards, he hit upon more than an apt framing device, more even than an industry that needed to be exposed for its heinous practices; consciously or not, he hit upon the subject that would give his novel its most enduring quality. The Jungle is, arguably, the only muckraking novel of its era that is still read for more than historical interest. In the slaughterhouse Sinclair found both the symbol and the objective correlative for the condition of the worker in that moment, as well as a trope for the entire twentieth century.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 319 )
Rating Distribution

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(133)

4 Star

(102)

3 Star

(50)

2 Star

(18)

1 Star

(16)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 321 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 27, 2010

    My favorite book of all time

    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.

    17 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2003

    An Account of a Lithuanian Immigrant's life

    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.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2008

    Incredible.

    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!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2008

    A Fine Journalist

    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.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2013

       SPOILER WARNING: The book chronicles the story of a young man

       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.    

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2013

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2013

    ....

    Seriously dude!! How do you expect Glimmer to like you when all you do is go on and on about how much you hate her? Great tactics man!! Seriously! That is not the way to win someone's heart, and going on about how much you love them isn't going to help either.

    1 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 22, 2012

    Had To Read For School, And Felt That It Was Alright

    The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, is the story of Jurgis Rudkus, and his life after moving to America from Lithuania. His life, in all honesty, is quite awful. Everything that happens to him is full of tradgedy and horror. With a really slow beginnning, and an interesting middle, I was ready to give this book three stars. Then came the random ending, all about Socialism. Like, it just came out of no where. It was entirely random, and it had nothing to do with the rest of the book. So that is why it is a two. That and a lot of this book was very hard to understand. However, this wasn't the worst book that I've had to read for school. It is interesting, but not nessicarily... good.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2011

    Compelling.

    This is the most depressing book in my opinion. Its just one sad terrible thing to the next sad terrible thing. Its so depressing and gross, its tough to finish it. Still it is a must read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This book is awesome!

    This book is great! Sinclair did an amazing job with this. The way he writes this book makes you feel as if you were in the stockyards. I am glad i read this book and have it a part of my library.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2014

    About as depressing a story as you can get

    And here is where cliff notes would really help if required class reading. When my grandson went to a pioneer village and saw them processing a pig he refused to eat meat for months. Now family is split into lacto veggies veggies fish veggies chicken/fish no pork and one no gluten. holiday dinners have become pot luck but my goodness what you can do with tofu chicago no longer has a stock yard and processing is else where and industry still has same problems pagecounter

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2013

    Don't read unless you are a masochist and want to cry all the ti

    Don't read unless you are a masochist and want to cry all the time. Just don't. 

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Twilight

    Shrugs. I like being dramatic :3

    0 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    Coal

    Ok. Comeback soon.

    0 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 11, 2012

    I had always heard about the impact this book had on the food in

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2012

    pass it up

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2012

    GREAT BOOK!!!! One of the best books ever written!!!!

    GREAT BOOK!!!!
    One of the best books ever written!!!!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2012

    Just what I wanted!

    I needed a copy of The Jungle to use in my classroom - this was perfect and simple! No need to take a trip to the bookstore.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2012

    The jungle

    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

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  • Posted March 17, 2012

    Great Book!!!!!

    This is a really eye opening book. Unbelievable that people really had to live this way.

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