Exposing Capitalism in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle Essay

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Exposing Capitalism in The Jungle

While the works of Upton Sinclair are not widely read today because of their primacy of social change rather than aesthetic pleasure, works like The Jungle are important to understand in relation to the society that produced them. Sinclair was considered a part of the muckraking era, an era when social critics observed all that was wrong and corrupt in business and politics and responded against it. The Jungle was written primarily as a harsh indictment of wage slavery, but its vivid depictions of the deplorable lack of sanitation involved in the meatpacking industry in Chicago resulted in public outrage to the point where Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection
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The metaphor of the human being as a waste product allows Sinclair to tap into the guilt feelings of his audience. At times, the book reminds one of those late-night TV solicitations for funds for third-world children. What is interesting is that this is not particularly a good novel to read; the writing is dogmatic and often polemical. Rather than trying to convince with reason and subtlety, Sinclair is shoving a point of view down the throats of those watching. Still, this brutal approach is the only way to make an impression on an audience so far removed from the reality depicted in the novel. Such an approach draws on the Catholic/Jewish/universal guilt that is plied by Sinclair like a preacher through the meat market of industrial life. Rudkus comes into the novel full of hope and the reader must identify with his hopes and dreams. Yet these dreams are not exactly fodder for a successful novel, if Rudkus was to find his American Dream. The dream he finds is as rotten as the sausage that he processes, as is the American Dream in the socialist mindset of Sinclair.

It is ironic that Sinclair uses the stories of people being abused by the system as the focus of his propagandistic writing. Throughout the novel it is obvious that Rudkus will be destroyed, and that his family's traditional values will be negated by a system that does not care. It is the slow and planned
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