A little background for the author, Upton Sinclair was widely known as a “muckracker” because he exposed social inequalities and wrongs. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle exposed the terrible working conditions in the meat-packing industry. His description of diseased, rotten, and contaminated meat shocked the public and led to new federal food safety laws. It is Sinclair’s contribution to literature that led the government regulate the food industry thus creating the FDA (Food & Drugs Act). If you aren’t sitting down, take a seat, and think about that. Since 1879, there were about 100 bills that had been introduced in Congress to regulate food and drugs; on June 30, 1906 President Roosevelt signed the Food and Drugs Act. This guy, Sinclair changed the game for distributors of meat, potentially saved millions of lives! Here are reasons why this book changed history: (1) children are not allowed to work in factory-related jobs, (2) there is worker’s compensation for on-the-job injury, (3) no more animal fecal matter in our meat. Upton Sinclair and investigative journalists like him should be credited for bringing public attention to issues like child labor and proper hygienic maintenance in food production.
Although Sinclair’s The Jungle is widely known for bringing societal attention for food production, it was written to criticize early twentieth-century business and labor practices in the rapid growing cities of the United States. By the time The Jungle was published, there was a flush of European immigrants into the United States who altered the demographics of cities like Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, or Boston. Many of these immigrants lived in overcrowded, run-down tenement buildings without access to clean water or proper sewage systems. These immigrants have traveled across seas to America looking for work opportunities. The immigrants provided a cheap source of labor for American factories and businesses. As Sinclair saw it, millionaire businessmen built large empires by exploiting their immigrant workers.
This book is truly a work of art. I read it when I was an AP English student and I enjoyed it then and I will definitely read it again. I recommend this book to all who are interested in the formation of federal agencies or a perfect description of how a European immigrant family lived in the early twentieth century as they left their native lands in search for the American dream. This book led to the creation of the Food and Drug Act and if that isn’t cool for you, I don’t know what cool is anymore.