Upton Sinclair's 'The Jungle' is the classic exposure of labour conditions in Chicago's meat packing industry at the beginning of the last century. But it is also an American version of 'Everyman', tracing the fortunes of Jurgis, a Lithuanian immigrant who has arrived with high expectations of a better life in 'the land of the free'. Disillusionment follows, as he and his family fall into the many traps that lie in his path. His trajectory from fit optimistic worker to a worn out bum that no one wants to employ is reflected in the disintegration of his young family as result of poverty and disease, helped by his own descent into a life of crime and degradation. His ultimate salvation comes via his conversion to socialism at a mass meeting, with the enticing vision of a major worker victory against capitalism within the next ten years.
Much of this novel makes grim, and at time distasteful reading. Misfortune is piled on misfortune; things always go wrong when life seems to be at last improving for Jurgis and his family. This reflects the basic weakness of 'The Jungle' as a novel: Sinclair too often treats his main characters as symbols in a morality tale. There is rather too much of the polemic, an impression reinforced by the disquisition on socialism (in its various forms) that is set out in the final section of the book. Events turned out differently in the US, of course, and the main impact of 'The Jungle' in practical terms came from its authentic and quite graphic details of the adulteration of meat by packers - including the use of diseased meat - revelations that inspired the first food and drug act of 1906.
High praise for this (very inexpensive) kindle version.