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Welcome to the Jungle
Transcript of Welcome to the Jungle
Connections to Today
Sinclair was an outspoken socialist who intended for The Jungle to be an indictment of the evils of unchecked capitalism. He set out to attack Chicago's Beef Trust, and he provides excruciating, accurate detail about the dangerous, appallingly unsanitary working conditions of the early-twentieth-century packing houses and factories. Sinclair hoped to inspire outrage for the plight of the workers. But, as Sinclair later commented, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."
The Jungle is the story of a man, Jurgis Rudkus, and his family, who are immigrants from Lithuania. They come to America with hopes of making a good life for themselves. Instead, they encounter a series of misfortunes and degradations as a result of their own ignorance and the powerful forces of unrestrained capitalism and political corruption. The Rudkus's sad story highlights the many injustices and pitfalls of American politcal and social systems.
Sinclair spent 7 weeks in Packingtown, a section southwest of Chicago where stockyards, slaughterhouses, factories and the tenements that housed the workers were located.
The Pure Food and Drug Act
Readers, including President Teddy Roosevelt himself, were revolted by what they read about how food was handled and prepared and demanded an investigation. The Jungle did not spark a socialist revolution, but it did prompt the implementation of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, a sweeping reform measure.
Much of the pathos of The Jungle is just as powerful today as it was over 100 years ago, mainly because the issues it highlights are unresolved. Factories, child labor and sweatshops are more prevalent than ever before in much of the developing world. And the U.S. certainly cannot claim to have eradicated all of its social evils.
What does Eric Schlosser’s title for Chapter 7, “Cogs in
the Great Machine” mean? Read an excerpt in The Jungle and annotate sections that may answer the question.
How does what we read in The Jungle about Durham’s Meat Packing Company compare to today’s major meatpacking companies Schlosser discusses in Chapter 7?