The Jungle Summary
Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle, while more notably regarding as a condemnation of the meat packing industry, is actually an in-depth study of the negative effects of corruption in America. This corruption is clearly evident in three areas within the novel:
In the meat packing work performed by the immigrants to Chicago's stockyards
In the government and factory bosses that manage the immigrants
In the saloons patronized by the immigrants
The Jungle sickened Americans when it was released because of its portrayal of the corruption that directly affected what Americans were eating at the time. As noted in the novel, "with one member trimming beef in a cannery, and another working in a sausage factory, the family had a first-hand knowledge of the great majority of Packingtown swindles". Furthermore, the novel goes on to state that "the packers were always originating ... schemes". For example, because smoking sausage took time and was expensive, the packers "would call upon their chemistry department and preserve it with borax and color it with gelatine to make it brown", therefore trading in the health of their customers for a few extra dollars without any knowledge to those customers. "The people of Chicago saw the government inspectors in Packingtown...they did not understand that these inspectors had been appointed at the request of the packers, and that they were paid by the United States government to certify that all the diseased meat was kept in the state".
Upton Sinclair's The Jungle may have captured the hearts of the American people by bringing to their attention the poor quality of food they ate on a daily basis. But more importantly, the novel examines the role that corruption played in enslaving thousands of immigrants who came to America seeking better lives for themselves. First, the packers who owned the plants used corruption to steal from the public and force the public to eat unhealthy meat produced in unsanitary work conditions. Second, the packers used corruption to force their bosses and unions to do their bidding and control the workers. Third, the democratic government that should have protected its citizens instead turned its back on them because of corruption. Finally, with nowhere left to turn, the workers were driven to the saloons that were driven by corruption to prey on these individuals. Therefore, it is corruption that is the true horror at the heart of The Jungle.