Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Jungle

I heard about this book back in high school, where my English teacher told us we would never want to eat a hotdog again if we ever read it. I didn't read it.

But a few weeks ago I was trying to think of  a few free books I could download to my e-reader app on my phone and this title came to mind. I'm not sure why but I thought, "I should read that." Maybe I was just finally tired of hotdogs?!

Let me just say that the whole story is sad. I was heartbroken reading about the immigrant family moving from Lithuania only to find life in America much harder than they thought possible. The working conditions were awful. I mean awful. Living paycheck to paycheck seems like an understatement. And the things this family had to go through in attempting to own a home were so painful to read. Seriously, I told Chris I never wanted to own a home after reading this story. The family never catches a break . . . and it breaks them.

The book is more well known for its revealing the lack of sanitary practices in packaging meat products in the early 1900s. Which trust me, it did. Even with today's standards you have to question what is really done to packaged meat. But that seemed like the back story to me. Sinclair did actually go undercover and work in a meat packing plant in Chicago while writing the series for a newspaper. Later it was turned into a novel. The real issue and reason behind his story was the lack of care for the workingman by these big corporations and the government. There was a huge gap between the upper and lower classes. The corporations often being corrupt and exuding power over the lower class in every way possible.

The end of the book takes a different turn as the main character gets more involved with politics and gets to see things from a different perspective. He becomes very active in Socialism and that is where we are left. This man who has lived through so many awful things and lost everything dear to him is given a hope that things can be different and better.

Isn't it amazing what can change in 100 years? Or not change? There are still families trying to make it in America. There are still large gaps between the classes and corruption everywhere. There is still talk of Socialism verses Democracy.

I never felt like I was reading a historical story, it very well could be happening in today's factories. Although unions seem to be a bit stronger than they were back then. The idea of living paycheck to paycheck to pay for what you dream of owning, like a home, is still very much a reality for many Americans.

Have you read The Jungle? What were your thoughts?

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