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The Jungle
Upton Sinclair




The conversion of Jurgis to socialism, at the end of the book, was really impossible after his soul had been "murdered," as one was told, and the story of his life was quite unreal when, after the death of his wife and his child, he became a hobo, a scab, and a crook. He was as unreal, in fact, as his friend Duane, the fancy man, or the young millionaire who invites him to his house in Chicago, a figure of pure melodrama in which Sinclair reverted to his early pulp-writing. Sinclair's characters, as a rule, were puppets.

Van Wyck Brooks, The Confident Years, 1953.

Jurgis does not have enough inner life to make his final conversion credible. Even in its powerful early chapters, the book demands a surprisingly narrow range of emotion from the reader. The more the characters are trapped by the system, they are transformed from agents to mere victims, and the principal feeling asked of us is pity- one of the most dehumanizing of all emotions, since it turns people into objects of our compassion rather than subjects in their own right.

This somewhat stunted humanity prevents The Jungle from being one of the truly great novels of city life, however accurate its social and economic framework may be.

Morris Dickstein, "Introduction," to The Jungle, 1981.

The "conversion" pattern of The Jungle has been attacked as permitting too easy a dramatic solution; however... it should be noted that in The Jungle Sinclair carefully prepares such an outcome by conducting Jurgis through all the circles of the workers' inferno and by attempting to show that no other savior except Socialism exists. Perhaps a more valid objection to the book is Sinclair's failure to realize his characters as "living" persons.... They gradually lose their individuality.... Yet paradoxically, the force and passion of the book are such that they finally do come to stand for the masses themselves, for all the faceless ones to whom things are done. Hardly individuals, they nevertheless collectively achieve symbolic status.

Walter B. Rideout, The Radical Novel in the United States, 1900-1954, 1956.


The question is... whether the agitprop [agitation and propaganda for socialism] in The Jungle damaged this novel as form and as narrative, and the answer must be affirmative. The declamatory final chapter... is uplifting but it is also artificial, an arbitrary re-channelling of the narrative flow, a piece of rhetoric instead of a logical continuation of the story, and throughout most of the book the woes piled upon Jurgis and his family are so concentrated as to assault the imagination. However, this damage is too slight to spoil the complete effect. The Jungle, with an argument now out of date, remains one of the most heartrending accounts in fiction of what ignorant and helpless human beings have endured.

Grant C. Knight, The Strenuous Age in American Literature, 1954.


There are two general approaches which Sinclair makes in all [his] novels. One is a close, documented study of the working of some specific economic mechanism; the other is a charge of general conspiracy for the maintenance and extension of privilege on the part of the beneficiaries of the system. The Jungle is relatively successful because it leans heavily on the former technique, though the charge of conspiracy is implicit throughout.

George J.Becker, "Upton Sinclair: Quixote in a Flivver," College English 21, 1959.


"Nothing about [Sinclair] has done more to make him an arresting novelist than his conviction that mankind has not yet reached its peak, as the pessimists think; and that the current stage of civilization, with all that is unendurable about it, need last no longer than till the moment when mankind determines that it need no longer endure. He speaks as a Socialist who has dug up a multitude of economic facts and can present them with appalling force; he speaks as a poet sustained by visions and generous hopes.

Carl Van Doren, Contemporary American Novelists, 1900-1920, 1922.

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National Council of Teachers of English Student Guide Series
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Frank O'Hare, Professor of English
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National Council of Teachers of English
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
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Becker, George J. "Upton Sinclair: Quixote in a Flivver." College English 21 (1959): 133- 40.

Blinderman, Abraham, ed. Critics on Upton Sinclair. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1975.

Bloodworth, William A., Jr. Upton Sinclair. Boston: Twayne, 1977.

Brooks, Van Wyck. The Confident Years. New York: Dutton, 1953.

Dell, Floyd. Upton Sinclair: A Study in Social Protest. New York: George H. Doran, 1927.

Dickstein, Morris. "Introduction"; The Jungle. New York: Bantam Books, 1981.

Downs, Robert B. "Afterword"; The Jungle. New York: New American Library, 1960.

Harris, Leon. Upton Sinclair: American Rebel. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1975.

Hicks, Granville. "The Survival of Upton Sinclair." College English 4 (1943): 213-20.

Kazin, Alfred. On Native Grounds. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1942.

Knight, Grant C. The Strenuous Age in American Literature. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1954.

Rideout, Walter B. The Radical Novel in the United States, 1900-1954. New York: Hill and Wang, 1956.

Van Doren, Carl. Contemporary American Novelists, 1900-1920. New York: Macmillan, 1922.

Yoder, Jon A. Upton Sinclair. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1975.


Sinclair wrote scores of books, including 42 novels, 25 works of nonfiction, more than 10 plays, two volumes of autobiography, and other books. The following is a selection of Sinclair's works.


    Love's Pilgrimage, 1911
    King Coal, 1917
    Jimmie Higgins, 1919
    Oil!, 1927
    Boston, 1928
    World's End, 1940
    Between Two Worlds, 1941
    The Return of Lanny Budd, 1953
    Affectionately Eve, 1961



    American Outpost, 1932
    The Autobiography of Upton Sinclair, 1962


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