There are two ways to look at the book The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair. One is in the historical context it was written and the other is from a contemporary viewpoint. Few books have had as much impact on American society as The Jungle did. Although it was written primarily as socialist propaganda the book’s detailed descriptions of the disgusting and unsanitary conditions that meat products were being produced in prompted a national outcry which eventually led to a Federal investigation and the passing of some new laws. There are three main themes in the book, social justice, racial equality, and corporate and political corruption. Through these themes Sinclair tries to make a case for Socialism in America.
Since 1910 when The Jungle was written the world is a completely different place. Most of the book’s messages are no longer applicable in America society. There are now many laws in place which force companies to accurately label their products and to provide sanitary conditions for food to be handled and prepared in. In addition the American Socialist political party has not had even minor political power in many decades. Although these points are now mute the main themes of the book still exist. When researching the current state of the meat industry I found the article in the New York Times Archive, “At a Slaughterhouse, Some Things Never Die; Who Kills, Who Cuts, Who Bosses Can Depend on Race.”
The article told about a white journalists account of working at a slaughterhouse in the South. Since The Jungle, the slaughterhouses moved to rural areas where there were no unions. In the book Sinclair talks about there being a clear distinction between the workers and the bosses both coming from different walks of life. The workers were never given the ability to become a boss or get a raise beyond a certain point. In recent times most of the workers at these plants are Blacks and Mexicans, taking the place of immigrant labor from poorer countries in Europe during Sinclair’s time.
Hendrick, Bill. "Baby Bosses: Youth vs. experience doesn't have to be us vs. them." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Monday, 18 April 2005. "Living." Pg. B 1. The article addresses a different side effect of the generation gap between the 79 million baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) and Generation X ers (those born between 1965 and 1984). The already-present tension between managers ...
Could it be that in almost a century not much but the color of the workers skin has changed? This article says yes, and from my reading of The Jungle I can draw many analogies between this article and the book. For instance social and language barriers within the workers existed. In the article it was between the Black who spoke English and the Mexicans who spoke Spanish, in the book it was immigrants from many different countries in Europe, each speaking a different language. The author of the article also goes on to say that the bosses were able to keep the wages down by hiring many illegal immigrants who weren’t able to stand up for their rights and were too scared to try and start any sort of union.
It seems that all of Sinclair themes were repeated in the article but still remain mainly unaddressed in modern society. One might wonder how much will change a hundred years from now. We consider ourselves to be a very advanced and socially just society but as the title of the article states, some things never die.