If it weren’t for this book, maybe none of us would be alive today, but that could be an over exaggeration. The Jungle brings to light the horrors of meat packing plants in the 1920s and actually brought about reforms in the way our food is handled and processed. Upton Sinclair’s novel takes place in the fiction city called Packingtown, a city that closely resembles Chicago in the same time era. It follows a newly immigrated Lithuanian family and their trials in America, a strange and foreign land. Jurgis is the head of the family and he is engaged to Ona. Her cousin, Marija and stepmother Elzbieta live with them along with a few other family members. They live in a tenement in the beginning of the novel and purchase their own house later, however realizing that they were scammed when it came to making payments on it. The family struggles more but Jurgis gets a job in a meat packing plant and the family is a little better off as the older ones get jobs as well. However, Ona admits to being sexually harassed at her workplace and Jurgis confronts the boss who was making the advances, knocking him out cold and landing him in prison. The family is unaware of Jurgis being locked up and have to find ways to make more money without him, Marija resulting to prostitution to make ends meet. Jurgis gets out of prison and realizes Ona is about to have a second child, but dies while in labor because the family couldn’t scrounge up enough money to find a sufficient doctor to save her, and their first child, Antanas, drowns in the street. Jurgis is defeated and leaves the family and beings to wander the country looking for work, falling deeper into alcoholism. In the end, he comes back to his family and becomes a socialist after seeing a rally (this is ironic because in my version of the book, there is an introduction by the author that praises socialism and you can tell he’s pretty biased). The Jungle was an interesting read, probably because it’s a historical novel, but also because it was based on fact. Sinclair was a muckraker and he saw firsthand how terrible the conditions were in factories that were processing food. It shows how our country fixed a problem in society and how to not revert back to that again.
Recently in AP United States History, we were discussing the era of the 1890s when middle-class reformers called Progressives were trying to change society and make it better for those in need. One of these reforms was the regulation of food, specifically meat. Upton Sinclair, a socialist author of the time, saw firsthand how terrible the conditions were and wanted to do something to change them, so he wrote The Jungle. This novel brought to light the horrors of the meat industry and how unhealthy it was for the workers and the consumers. I’m actually a little leary about reading this book because I have heard it is stomach-churning and vomit-inducing, something we should not be proud of as Americans. During the time before this book was published, the general public had no idea that their meat that they consumed was handled in grotesque, horrifying ways. They were oblivious to the fact that rats occupied the same space as their Sunday dinner. Upton Sinclair brought all this to light after the meat-packers union in Chicago went on strike and his editor said he should write about it. Nobody probably had the notion that this would lead to social and ethical reform. The things he witnessed were appalling and downright disgusting. You can read about some of the conditions of these meat-packing plants here, it’s too gross and time-consuming to type out. Sinclair published his book and the public was outraged; this was the food that they trusted workers with, stuff they were putting into their bodies with the illusion that it was good for them and safe as well. This led to major reform with President Teddy Roosevelt. the trustbusting man who reformed the corporate business world. He passed the Pure Food and Drug Act as well as the Meat Inspection Act that led to inspections of work places and the foundation of the FDA, with laws and regulations on the quality of food. Sinclair’s novel changed the way we eat, resulting in a change in the way we live, literally. Stay tuned for my next post of my review of The Jungle.
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Before I start this post, I want you to do something. Say ‘jellicoe’. Say it a few more times. Now say it with an Australian accent. Wasn’t that fun? Now that you’ve gotten that out of your system, you can continue to read this post. This book has raving, all-praising reviews on Goodreads, which I read before starting the novel. Here’s a challenge: go find one review of this book other than mine that is negative. Once you come back, whining about how it was impossible, I’ll let you in on a secret- you can’t find a negative review about this book. It honestly sounded like this was going to be the next big obsession of mine and I started to read the first few pages. That’s when things began to go downhill. The parts of the book that people admittedly stated were confusing were not confusing to me. I don’t know if I just wasn’t reading with devoted attention or if the book was really that bad, but I don’t see what all the fuss was about. Fans of this book should probably not read this post, for my safety and yours. I have some specific issues with this book, number one being that it was based in Australia. Of all places to have a book, you pick a giant, barely inhabited island that was colonized by prisoners. I have nothing against the people of Australia, however. Your accents are gnarly and I probably miss Steve Irwin as much as you do. Now that we’ve got stereotypes out of the way, we can get back to the important topic of the setting. I have read a grand total of two books that were based in Australia now and I didn’t like either one of them. Personally, I think it’s time for me to stop reading books based on the huge island of kangaroos and koalas and other creatures that start with ‘k’. My second problem with this book is the characters. Everyone on Goodreads said these characters were believable and awe-inspiring. I felt that they were underdeveloped and just out of nowhere, if that makes sense. The main characters are ensued in a territory war. Why highschoolers are fighting with rich people from town and military cadets in training over land is beyond me. This war wasn’t really explained well, all that I got from it was it’s been a tradition since people can remember. The people are very strict about the territory boundaries; some girls from the Jellicoe school accidentally crossed over borders and the cadets took them hostage in their tent. A little extreme, if you ask me. There was also a story within the story about five teenagers and their experiences on the Jellicoe Road and the beginning of the territory wars. This added to my problems with character development because the people in the story turned out to be real people in the bigger story. That’s the part most people found confusing. I just didn’t see much change between the way they were and they way they became. Overall, the only things I enjoyed about this book were the cutesy quotes that most everyone likes and trying to read it in my head with an Australian accent. The latter proved to be quite difficult. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as everyone said I would but we all have those books every once in a while. Now that all the people of Australia have completely lost their respect for me, I might go watch Finding Nemo in the hopes that that will somehow make up for all I’ve said. Happy reading.
Recently, I saw the second movie of the Hunger Games series called Catching Fire (like I’ve said before, working at a movie theater has it’s perks.) After I watched it, I realized that soon the next movie would be coming out and I had completely forgotten what happened in the third book. This prompted me to find one of my friends who had the book to borrow it from them so I could refresh my memory for the upcoming movie. This last installment of the series, Mockingjay, is the story of the rebellion of the people of Panem against the Capitol and how Katniss Everdeen leads this rebellion. To me, the story went very quickly and honestly, some parts confused me because I feel like they popped out of no where. In particular, there were a lot of parts in the book where Katniss is hallucinating or just imagining things so it’s hard to keep track of reality. All of the action was sometimes hard for my mind to follow, but this happens often for me when reading. There were also a lot of characters that were hard to keep track of. Some important characters were killed off for no apparent reason, in the most uneventful ways. Personally, I didn’t go all crazy fangirl for the series when it came out. I did obviously read it and I think it’s a great series but it’s not something I dedicate my heart and soul to. What I love about the last book is that people started comparing it to our way of government in America and how people would react if it got out of hand. It’s interesting to see what people take away from books, no matter how extreme. Another thing I liked was the semi-cheesy romantic ending that tied the story together and kind of completed some unanswered questions. However, the writing and diction was perfect for it and that is what made it semi-cheesy. The movie for Mockingjay will be split into two parts. I don’t really understand why since it is about the same size as the previous books in the series, most likely its just for marketing purposes, something I talked about in a previous post. I am excited to see how they adapt the final installment of the series into a movie, since there is so much action and chaos going on. I feel that the movie will help me understand the book because it’s something I can visually see and it will all come together. What did you think of the Hunger Games series?