At the beginning of the 1900s, writers became involved in social issues. Many writers became investigative reporters called muckrakers. They contributed to the Progressive Movement by investigating and exposing some of the ills of society. One of the writers of this time was Upton Sinclair, who wrote the novel The Jungle. Read the introduction below to gain an idea of what the novel is about.

Image of Poster advertising book by Upton Sinclair, showing lion standing on skull of steer.

Source: The Jungle Book Cover, Upton Sinclair, Library of Congress

The novel The Jungle was written during a period in American history when trusts were formed by multiple corporations. These trusts controlled various industries by establishing monopolies that reduced competition and fixed prices. These business practices also led to harsh, dangerous working conditions.

After writing a few unsuccessful novels, Upton Sinclair became famous in 1906 after The Jungle exposed the conditions in the U.S. meatpacking industry. The Jungle was a historical fiction exposé of the working conditions endured by the immigrant laborers in the meatpacking industry in Chicago. Going undercover, Sinclair spent seven weeks inside the meatpacking plants gathering details for his novel.

Image of an older Upton Sinclair leaning on a stack of books.

Source: Upton Sinclair, Library of Congress

The Jungle did not change the lives of immigrant workers as Sinclair had hoped. However, the novel still played an important role in the Progressive Movement. It raised public awareness of the unsantitary conditions in food processing plants and the resulting danger of tainted food. In response to public outrage, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906) and the Meat Inspection Act (1906).

Activity: Based on what you read above, answer the following questions in your notes about The Jungle.

  1. What was the intended subject of The Jungle?
  2. Interactive popup. Assistance may be required.

    Click here to compare your answer.

    Working conditions of the immigrant laborers. Close Pop Up

  3. What became the issue of the book instead?
  4. Interactive popup. Assistance may be required.

    Click here to compare your answer.

    The unsanitary conditions in which meat was processed. Close Pop Up

  5. Why do you think that the focus of the book changed for the public?
  6. Interactive popup. Assistance may be required.

    Click here to compare your answer.

    Possible answer: People were more concerned about their own food and health than about the working conditions in the meatpacking plants. Close Pop Up