A few days ago, I finished reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.
Even though it was well written and the plot was captivating, I had a hard time reading The Jungle. You just felt so sad for all the characters; Jurgis & Ona Rudkus; Marija Berczynskas & Tamoszius Kuszleika; Teta Elzbieta; Dede Antanas; and all the little children.
The graphic descriptions of the inhumane working conditions, of the disgusting meatpacking industry, of the problems of non-English speaking immigrants, it just made me want to stop reading.
I can see how this book outraged the public when it was published in 1906 and led to the passage of pure food laws.
Even with the pure food laws, it is clear from reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma that we still don’t know what goes into our food. We think “free-range” is a clear enough term but most of us don’t what it really means. We can read the ingredients of a product, but how many of us know that citric acid, lactic acid, glucose, fructose, malodextrin, ethanol, sorbitol, manitol, xanthan gum, dextrins, and monosodium glutamate (among many other common ingredients) are corn-processed additives!
Even though it did not succeed in converting Americans to socialism, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle continues to ring true today. Can you imagine the public outrage and the call for change that would happen if we all knew the truth of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO)?
I am eager to read Steven Greenhouse’s The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker (a non-fiction book about the problems facing American workers — click here to view all my posts about this book), to learn about the problems facing the modern poor and the middle class alike.