Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel The Jungle, was written to expose the grotesque and horrid conditions of the meatpacking industry in Chicago. He describes the workers having severed fingers, blood poisoning, and tuberculosis. Sinclair even describes one of the families working for the meatpacking company, Jurgis Rudkus describing their life in Packingtown as “corrupt, exploitative, and oppressive nature of work.” The fact that Sinclair has a clear bias and belief in socialism at the time of writing the novel, there is certainty some skepticism how much of his “findings” are factual versus fiction. But even if 100% of his accounts of the treacherous and monstrous meatpacking factories are true, the question is how much government intervention should be involved in regulating and monitoring business affairs. As Sinclair hoped, President Theodore Roosevelt fell right into his emotional sales pitch and signed into law the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. Aside from the details of what these federal agencies are responsible for, I have my doubts that their involvement did not contribute much to the improvement conditions of meatpacking industry. In my view, the exploitation and conditions of meatpacking industries from The Jungle already awakened enough criticism and shock from the general public that the industry would have cleaned up its act despite any federal acts.
But my criticism of Sinclair’s novel isn’t the exposing of the meatpacking industry, but his agenda from the beginning to implement a socialistic agenda and more government powers over the industry. The circumstances of whether the factory workers were treated unfairly or the conditions were unbearable is really a mute point. Even if the meatpacking conditions were rated AAA grade and workers treated like royalty, Sinclair would have looked for another angle to attack the industry in order to create a necessity for more government involvement. The socialism agenda was already a narrative for Sinclair at the time of writing his novel The Jungle, and he just crossed upon a convenient circumstances to fit his narrative very well.