Review: The Jungle

The JungleThe Jungle
by Upton Sinclair

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Jungle / 1-5661-9566-7

Propaganda is, by its very nature, always the least subtle of art forms. Make no mistake about it, "The Jungle" is propaganda. But it is propaganda with a root and a purpose, and Sinclair does not disappoint. He tells the harrowing tale of immigrants to America who find, slowly, painfully, that their sweet, naive natures make them easy pickings for the vultures who have gathered to feast on them.

Workers work long hours for little pay, under hazardous conditions, with nothing but a "Bad luck, Chuck" and a pat on the back if maimed or killed at the workplace. Leases for housing and furniture are written in incomprehensible legalese and the lawyers hired to protect them are in league with the owners seeking to cheat them. Even a staple like food works against them, as they unwittingly drink milk colored with white paint to cut prices and boost sales. The food they eat kills them, the house they live in consumes them, the work they do destroys them. By the time they realize that the only "real" way to get along in this cold world would have been to become wolves themselves (if only the women had been hooking all this time, one woman laments tearfully), it is too late - their children are cold and dead, their lives are ruined.

This book is a stunning reminder to each of us the sheer amount of trust we place in the world around us. We trust that the food we eat will not poison us, despite knowing that the regulatory agencies that 'care' for us are deeply politically and financially tied to those who we are supposed to be protected from. We trust that the contracts we sign will be honored, that the mortgages we contract will be legitimate. We trust that if the worst happens at our workplace, we and our family will be cared for. Sinclair reminds us that life is not always so simple, and is never so simple for the poorest of us.

~ Ana Mardoll

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