The passage in “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair that sickened America in 1906

“The Jungle” was a 1906 novel by the American writer Upton Sinclair about a family of immigrants from Bohemia struggling to survive under horrific working and living conditions in Chicago. Sinclair, a Socialist, blamed all their problems on the evils of capitalism. The public, however, reacted more to his exposure of the filthy practices in the American meatpacking industry, which Sinclair based on an investigation he did for a socialist newspaper.

Although his book helped lead to a quick reform of the industry and improved food inspection, Sinclair later complained that “I aimed at the public’s heart and by accident hit its stomach.” Here’s the passage about meat processing plants in Chicago that sickened readers:

“Worst of any, however, were the fertilizer men, and those who served in the cooking rooms. These people could not be shown to the visitor,—for the odor of a fertilizer man would scare any ordinary visitor at a hundred yards, and as for the other men, who worked in tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting,—sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham’s Pure Leaf Lard!” (end of Chapter 9)

The Jungle (full text)

teacher’s guide to the Jungle
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