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"Practically alone among the American writers of his generation," wrote Edmund Wilson, "[Sinclair] put to the American public the fundamental questions raised by capitalism in such a way that they could not escape them." When it was first published in 1906, "The Jungle" exposed the inhumane conditions of Chicago's stockyards and the laborer's struggle against industry and "wage slavery." It was an immediate bestseller and led to new regulations that forever changed workers' rights and the meatpacking industry. A direct descendant of Dickens's "Hard Times," it remains the most influential workingman's novel in American literature.
Upton Sinclair was born into an impoverished Baltimore family on September 20, 1878. At fifteen, he began writing a series of dime novels in order to pay for his education at the City College of New York. He was later accepted to do graduate work at Columbia, and while there he published a number of novels, including The Journal of Arthur Stirling (1903) and Manassas (1904). Sinclair's breakthrough came in 1906 with the publication of The Jungle, a scathing indictment of the vile health and working conditions of the Chicago meat-packing industry. The work, which won him great literary praise, helped in the passage of the pure food laws during the Progressive Era. He also joined the company of several writers and journalists of the time who were branded as "muckrakers" by President Theodore Roosevelt. Sinclair used the money from The Jungle to begin a utopian experiment, the Helicon Hall Colony of Englewood, New Jersey. In 1915 he moved to California where he unsuccessfully ran for public office on four occasions. He wrote several politically progressive pamphlets and became a powerful figure in California's Democratic party, almost winning the governorship in 1934. After his defeat he continued to write books. Later works include World's End (1940); Dragon's Teeth (1942), which won him a Pulitzer Prize; O Shepherd, Speak! (1949); and Another Pamela (1950).
Table of Contents
The Jungle Introduction by Ronald Gottesman Suggestions for Further Reading A Note on the Text