By raising the consciousness of consumers to the shocking conditions in the stockyards, slaughterhouses, and meatpacking facilities of Chicago, The Jungle helped launch federal regulation of the food industry.
Seldom does a work of fiction have dramatic, long-term effects on the day-to-day operations of a major industry. Such, however, was the case with Upton
The plot of The Jungle follows the fortunes of the Rudkus family, Lithuanian immigrants living in the slums of Chicago. The protagonist, Jurgis Rudkus, works in the meatpacking industry, and during the course of the novel he endures imprisonment, the deaths of his wife and young son, and a long series of injuries and humiliations at work. The book shined a harsh light on the horrors of life in desperate poverty. It revealed the filthy and dangerous working conditions in the stockyards, slaughterhouses, and meatpacking plants where profit motives gave rise to corner cutting, corruption, and shocking abuses of workers.
The Jungle was published in early 1906 and immediately made an international splash. As the editors of Appeal to Reason had intended, readers learned about the deprivations of America’s urban slums.
Public outcry was so loud that government action soon became all but inevitable. Steps were taken to improve conditions in the industry and to counteract corruption. Legislation passed in the summer of 1906, mere months after The Jungle’s publication, mandated more stringent inspections of both the meat itself and the plants where it was processed. The
Barrett, James R. Work and Community in the Jungle: Chicago’s Packinghouse Workers, 1894-1922. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002. Mattson, Kevin. Upton Sinclair and the Other American Century. New York: John WIley & Sons, 2006.
Food and Drug Administration
Literary works with business themes