May 31, 2012

The Jungle: Book Nook

Somehow, I managed to go through highschool with only the barest knowledge of this book, rather than actually having been asked to read it. It was this month's selection in my local bookclub and I was very happy to pick it up and check it out.

Quick history lesson: the book was originally published as a serial in a socialist magazine, and shortly after was published in novel format in 1906. It caused quite an uproar, and even lead to an investigation of the meatpacking industry and legislation being enacted (legislation I am personally rather fond, because it lead to the creation of the FDA not long after).

The story centers around a Lithuanian family who immigrates to Chicago to make a better life for themselves. Instead, however, they're met with swindlers, abhorrent working conditions, sickness, death, and despair. Without giving too much away, several family members die from these hardships caused by the disease of industrialization. I don't recommend you read it when you're in a sad mood.

That being said, however, I do highly recommend you pick it up. It is incredibly relevant to things going on today both in the US and abroad, particularly where immigration is concerned. Sinclair intended to open people's eyes to the plights of immigrants in the States, but, selfish creatures that we are, we were more worried about eating contaminated meat that people being worked literally to death.

Yes, it was published in a socialist magazine and it has a socialist message at the end- but if that's what's turning you away from the book, then you definitely need to pick it up more than anybody else. Socialism isn't a dirty word and thinking so should not deter you from acquainting yourself with this terrific read.

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