Review of The Jungle (1905)

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Upton Sinclair (writer).

There is no wilderness where I can hide from these things, there is no haven where I can escape them; though I travel to the ends of the earth, I find the same accursed system — I find that all the fair and noble impulses of humanity, the dreams of poets and the agonies of martyrs, are shackled and bound in the service of organized and predatory Greed!

Admittedly, it is somewhat uniform in its tragedies, until the unlikely salvation of socialism in its naïve pre-Soviet form at the very end. The extremes on both sides are slightly cartoonish, but full of mythic potential. I think of the Rudkus’ Chicago whenever I see the emigrants and sweatshops of the world, as well as the livestock, which has come to literally outweigh us all.

The book had a heartening reception. It eventually led to the creation of the US FDA and must have helped trust-busting and unionization in that nation, though I sometimes think we only took off the sharpest edges.

References here: “Toxic Discourse” (1998).

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