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.

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.

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

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.

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Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” is a timeless classic that has left an indelible mark on American literature. Published in 1906, the novel is a gritty and unapologetic portrayal of the harsh realities of the American industrial landscape during the early 20th century.

In this article, we will delve into Upton Sinclair’s main purpose in writing “The Jungle,” his initial intentions, the writing style employed, the kind of story it tells, its themes, characters, and undertake a comprehensive literary analysis of this groundbreaking work.

Upton Sinclair’s Main Purpose in Writing The Jungle

Upton Sinclair’s primary purpose in writing “The Jungle” was to expose the horrific working conditions and exploitation faced by immigrants in the American meatpacking industry. He aimed to shed light on the deplorable state of workers’ rights, health, and safety in this era of industrialization.

Sinclair was a passionate advocate for social justice, and he believed that by revealing the harsh truths of the meatpacking industry, he could ignite public outrage and push for much-needed reforms.


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.

Upton Sinclair’s First Intention in Writing The Jungle

Initially, Upton Sinclair set out to write a novel that would highlight the plight of immigrant workers in Chicago. He wanted to create a compelling narrative that would draw attention to the struggles faced by these immigrants as they sought to establish a better life in the United States.

However, as he conducted extensive research, he became increasingly appalled by the unsanitary and inhumane conditions in the meatpacking industry. His intention shifted towards exposing the industry’s atrocities and prompting societal change.

The Writing Style of The Jungle

“The Jungle” is characterized by a stark and realistic writing style. Sinclair’s prose is unembellished and straightforward, allowing the reader to fully immerse themselves in the bleak world of the novel.

He employs vivid and graphic descriptions to paint a grim picture of the meatpacking plants, and his writing evokes a visceral response in the reader. The language is often raw and unflinching, reflecting the harshness of the subject matter.

The Kind of Story The Jungle Tells

“The Jungle” is a social and political novel that falls within the genre of literary realism. It is a narrative that tells the story of Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant, and his family as they struggle to survive in the brutal world of Chicago’s meatpacking district.

While it is a work of fiction, it draws heavily from the real-life experiences of countless immigrant families during the early 20th century.

The Themes and Characters of The Jungle

The novel explores a multitude of themes, including:

  1. Immigration: The challenges and dreams of immigrant families seeking a better life in America.
  2. Capitalism: The ruthless pursuit of profit at the expense of workers’ rights and well-being.
  3. Class Struggle: The stark division between the wealthy elite and the impoverished working class.
  4. Exploitation: The brutal exploitation of laborers in the meatpacking industry.
  5. Corruption: The corrupt nexus between big business and government officials.

The characters in “The Jungle” are multi-dimensional and serve as vessels for these themes. Jurgis Rudkus, the protagonist, represents the hopeful immigrant who is gradually disillusioned by the American Dream.

Other characters, such as Ona, Marija, and Teta Elzbieta, embody the struggles of immigrant families in the face of adversity.

Literary Analysis of The Jungle

“The Jungle” is a powerful example of naturalism, a literary movement that emphasizes the deterministic influence of environment and heredity on human behavior. Sinclair meticulously details the dehumanizing conditions of the meatpacking industry to illustrate how they shape the characters’ lives.

He employs symbolism, such as the jungle itself, to convey the idea that capitalism is a brutal and unforgiving environment that devours its victims.

Furthermore, Sinclair’s use of vivid imagery and sensory descriptions intensifies the reader’s emotional engagement. The novel’s unrelenting depiction of suffering serves as a call to action, urging readers to confront the injustices of the time.

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In summary, Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” was a groundbreaking work with a multifaceted purpose. While it began as an exploration of immigrant life, it ultimately evolved into a scathing indictment of the meatpacking industry and the broader issues of capitalism, exploitation, and corruption.

Sinclair’s unflinching writing style, compelling characters, and powerful themes make “The Jungle” a timeless and thought-provoking masterpiece that continues to resonate with readers today. It remains a testament to the power of literature to effect change and inspire social reform.