full title The Jungle
author Upton Sinclair
type of work Novel
genre Social criticism, political fiction, muckraking fiction
time and place written 1905–1906, Chicago and Princeton, New Jersey
date of first publication 1906
publisher Sinclair published the novel at his own expense after several publishing firms rejected it.
narrator Though the narrator is anonymous, his sympathy for the laborers and vilification of capitalists identifies him as Sinclair’s mouthpiece.
point of view The third-person narrator focuses on what Jurgis Rudkus does and what he feels, learns, and experiences. The quasi-omniscient narrator also provides commentary on the social forces that affect characters’ lives, though often this commentary is framed as knowledge that Jurgis gains at some future point.
tone Sinclair’s attitude toward the story is obvious: the victimized working class is righteous, and the oppressing capitalists are evil. Sinclair’s perspective is identical to that of the narrator.
setting (time) Early 1900s
setting (place) Packingtown, the meat-packing sector of Chicago
major conflict Jurgis and his family attempt to pursue the American Dream, but wage slavery and the oppression of capitalism shatter every aspect of their lives.
rising action Phil Connor’s rape of Ona; Jurgis’s having to spend Christmas in jail away from his family; Ona’s death during childbirth
climax Upon hearing of Antanas’s death, in Chapter 21, Jurgis feels destroyed by capitalism.
falling action Jurgis’s abandonment of his family and turn to dishonest means to survive; Marija’s turn to prostitution
themes Socialism as a remedy for the evils of capitalism; the immigrant experience and the hollowness of the American Dream
motifs Corruption; family and tradition
symbols Packingtown and the stockyards symbolize the exploitation of workers; the idea of the jungle symbolizes the capitalist idea of the survival of the fittest; cans of rotten meat symbolize the disingenuous face of capitalism; Teta Elzbieta symbolizes the family, while Jonas symbolizes capitalism’s destruction of the family.
foreshadowing The grim setting of Packingtown foreshadows the family’s eventual destruction; the conversation with Grandmother Majauszkiene about the housing swindle foreshadows their eviction; Jurgis’s experiences with vote-buying and crime early in the novel foreshadow his later participation in similar schemes.