The Jungle

We’ve had some of the coldest days here in Minnesota in years. It leaves me thinking about the people who lived a hundred years ago, without the technology of Thinsulate or central heat at home orĀ  work. How hard it must have been to have to walk miles to work in sub-zero temps in shoes so worn out that your feet never thawed and probably lost toes due to frostbite.

I’m thinking about these things because I just read The Jungle. What intrigued me about the story was insight into the meat packing industry at the turn of the century. It also helped to read about women having babies while working – and possibly setting them on conveyor belts of meat heading for the grinder. Or fingers getting caught in machines and ending up in sausage. Meat well past its prime being doused in chemicals and sold as “potted meat” – gross I know. But apparently, this was truly happening. So true that public outrage lead to the passing of the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 (which later became the FDA).

If you can get past the very, very depressing story of poor Eastern European Jurgis and his constant misfortune during this time (His whole family including kids working to pay for a house they can’t afford. Loss of income due to injuries and illnesses, beaten and broken due to no regulations, death and so on.) It’s a fascinating book about turn-of-the-century life, work and meat.

When reading about Upton Sinclair and this book, I read this quote from him: “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”

I have to disagree. Sure, some of the stories were gross, but the details he gave were probably more elaborate than people were used to in literature during that time. Perhaps I’m immune to it? But I really felt for poor Jurgis who never could catch a break. So I would say Sinclair succeeded in my book.

Guess what, it’s free for kindles.
(I’ve been reading it in the warmth of my bed. It’s cold out there!)

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