By Upton Sinclair
Why this book?
First published in 1906, this classic muckraking novel set in the stockyards of Chicago is an excellent introduction to the myriad problems of the Gilded Age, including vast corruption. The gripping story follows an immigrant family as their hopes for achieving the American Dream through hard work are slowly ground into bitterness and despair. Sinclair wrote The Jungle to promote socialism, but his descriptions of the meatpacking industry were so vivid and appalling that the book contributed instead to progressive reforms including the Meat Inspection Act. According to Sinclair, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident hit it in the stomach.” The first half of the novel is better than the second, but it remains a gripping revelation of why progressive reform was so desperately needed.
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