Having read this as a high school freshman, I decided to take a new look at "The Jungle". "The Jungle", a model of the propongandistic novel, is the tale of Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant to the Packing house district of Chicago. Written in 1905, it tells the story of Jurgis' working class family which had come to America in search of a better life.
Arriving full of hope, Jurgis sought advancement through a home with the family, the Lithuanian Community, the Church, the industrial machine and politics. Time after time, the naive workman was taken by those whom Upton Sinclair regarded as the oppressors of the people. Every time Jurgis thought that he was a cog in the machine, he ended up being discarded when he was no longer useful to those in whom Jurgis had placed his trust.
Upton Sinclair was disappointed with the results of his book. Intended to win converts to socialism, it was his description of conditions in the packing houses which aided in the enactment of the Pure Food and Drug Act.
"The Jungle" can be appreciated on a number of levels. The action is well paced and holds the reader's interest. As a work of propaganda, it is a model specimen. As an historical insight, it lets the reader into the mind of an early Twentieth Century Socialist reformer. As a report of the life of the early industrial worker, it is entertaining, even if its details are exaggerated for effect. As a political statement, "The Jungle" is in the eyes of the reader. For the true believer, it conveys the truth. For the modern conservative, it is an antiquated and flawed view of the world, which, as time has shown, proposed a remedy which was never right. Which ever camp you fall into, or somewhere in between, "The Jungle" is worth a first, or a second, reading.