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Like War and Peace, The Jungle is a much acclaimed book I’ve never read; now I have. It stuck in my mind because it is on the required reading list for some literary classes at Kimberly High School.
The plot is simple but intense and very fast moving. Jurgis Rudkus is a young Lithuanian immigrant who comes to America to find the American dream. He comes to Chicago, penniless, and ends up working in the meat packing and slaughter house industry at the beginning of the 20th century.
What he finds is famine, poverty, hardship, alcoholism, depression, anxiety, prostitution, and a virtually inexhaustible list of social miseries the species of humanithy seems doomed to experience. As a former Air Force medic, I thought I had a pretty strong stomach. This book tested that hypothesis. The stories of how people were used and animals abused in the plants is compelling, spell-binding, but is also totally repugnant and disgusting. This book is not one of the great works of literature, but the story is tells is something in itself that stands for itself and makes it important to read because it annals a piece of Americans vividly. However, it was not until I read the epilogue that I fully appreciated this novel. The author goes off on an extended tangent wherein Jurgis, the working Everyman, stumbles across a rally promoting socialism. It finally dawned on me that this entire book was a treatise against capitalism and a voice for the strengths of socialism. As a senior citizen, I can well appreciate how the 99% of society are fed up with supporting the rich 1% who reap all he benefits of our endless, poorly-compensated labors. If you have a strong stomach and like fast-paced, real-life misery, this book is right up your alley.

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So, Upton Sinclair is definitely not the best writer in the world, but he tells stories that need to be heard. I really hope that people keep reading his work for a long time to come. This novel blew the lid off the meat-packing industry in Chicago when it was published, which is interesting because Sinclair was really aiming to inform people of the conditions endured by those living in poverty. I guess everyone already knew about those conditions, but those in power cared more about the meat that they were consuming. 

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