What Was Upton Sinclair’s Main Purpose in Writing The Jungle

I was shooting for the audience’s affections, but I wound up stabbing them in the gut. Upton Sinclair used those terms to describe the reception his work The Jungle received following its initial publication.

Providing specifics and examples of abuses in the meatpacking sector was only a means by which Sinclair hoped to portray the situation of immigrants in Chicago at the turn of the century. Those incidents, disclosed in fewer than twelve pages, were the rallying cry for industrial abuse and the public’s view of the novel’s overall thematic character, rather than merely one example of numerous sufferings.

What Was Upton Sinclair's Main Purpose in Writing The Jungle

The Jungle first appeared in 1905, in serial form, in the socialist publication Appeal to Reason. Sinclair was commissioned to expose the working conditions at Chicago’s stockyards. The widespread interest in Sinclair’s story sparked a public outcry against the meatpacking industry.

Due to the contentious nature of The Jungle, it was difficult to find a publisher for a printed copy. Sinclair’s book was first rejected for publication in 1906 by Doubleday, Page & Company until they confirmed the veracity of the claims made within.


Sinclair’s story is really a brand-new genre because he combines elements from a number of different writing styles. Much of the text has a naturalistic flavour. Literature that adheres to the tenets of realism, or “naturalism,” tries to observe humanity with the same objectivity and scientific rigour as scientists do. The protagonists in works of naturalistic fiction are “human creatures” whose behaviour may be understood by observing their natural habitats. It was Emile Zola who, in the traditional sense, defined and utilised naturalism. Sinclair was acting as a naturalist practitioner when he documented his experiences in Chicago in great detail.


Sinclair uses a number of muckraking strategies, in addition to naturalistic components. The muckrakers were journalists and authors who exposed wrongdoing in business and government by citing facts, statistics, and the law. Novels with a muckraking theme are meant to bring attention to social injustices and inspire readers to take action. Propaganda occurs when muckraking novels stop merely pointing out wrongdoing and start promoting one solution as the sole way to fix things. While The Jungle has been labelled propaganda by many, it stands in contrast to other propaganda novels whose authors openly admit their prejudice.

Opinions of Critics

The conclusion of The Jungle does read like an argument for socialism (it did first appear in a socialist journal), and scholars choose to ignore Sinclair and his work rather than try to establish his place in American literature. Jack London, a socialist contemporary of Sinclair’s, once said that “what Uncle Tom’s Cabin achieved for black slaves, The Jungle has a large opportunity to do for the wage slaves of today,” but few modern reviewers share this optimistic view. Many reviewers continue to see parallels between this work and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s well-known novel and believe that both deserve special attention, not so much for their literary merit, but for the impact they had on the American people.