The Jungle (novel)
The Jungle (1906) is a novel by Upton Sinclair that describes the life of a family of Lithuanian immigrants working in Chicago's Union Stock Yards at the end of the 19th century. The novel depicts in harsh tones, poverty, the complete absence of social security, the scandalous living and working conditions, the lack of hygiene, and generally the utter hopelessness prevalent among the have-nots, which is contrasted with the deeply-rooted corruption on the part of the haves.
- It was one of the laws of the veselija that no one goes hungry; and, while a rule made in the forests of Lithuania is hard to apply in the stockyards district of Chicago, with its quarter of a million inhabitants, still they did their best, and the children who ran in from the street, and even the dogs, went out again happier. A charming informality was one of the characteristics of this celebration. The men wore their hats, or, if they wished, they took them off, and their coats with them; they ate when and where they pleased, and moved as often as they pleased. There were to be speeches and singing, but no one had to listen who did not care to; if he wished, meantime, to speak or sing himself, he was perfectly free.
- The little person who leads this trio is an inspired man. His fiddle is out of tune, and there is no rosin on his bow, but he is a very inspired man — the hands of the muses have been laid upon him. He plays like one possessed by a demon, by a whole horde of demons. You can feel them in the air round about him, capering frenetically; with their invisible feet they set the pace, and the hair of the leader of the orchestra rises on end, and his eyeballs start from their sockets, as he toils to keep up with them.
- It is very imprudent, it is tragic — but, ah, it is so beautiful! Bit by bit these poor people have given up everything else; but to this they cling with all the power of their souls — they cannot give up the veselija! To do that would mean, not merely to be defeated, but to acknowledge defeat — and the difference between these two things is what keeps the world going. The veselija has come down to them from a far-off time; and the meaning of it was that one might dwell within the cave and gaze upon shadows, provided only that once in his lifetime he could break his chains, and feel his wings, and behold the sun; provided that once in his lifetime he might testify to the fact that life, with all its cares and its terrors, is no such great thing after all, but merely a bubble upon the surface of a river, a thing that one may toss about and play with as a juggler tosses his golden balls, a thing that one may quaff, like a goblet of rare red wine. Thus having known himself for the master of things, a man could go back to his toil and live upon the memory all his days.
- The veselija is a compact, a compact not expressed, but therefore only the more binding upon all.
- Jurgis felt that these men were out of touch with the life they discussed, that they were unfitted to solve its problems; nay, they themselves were part of the problem—they were part of the order established that was crushing men down and beating them! They were of the triumphant and insolent possessors; they had a hall, and a fire, and food and clothing and money, and so they might preach to hungry men, and the hungry men must be humble and listen! They were trying to save their souls—and who but a fool could fail to see that all that was the matter with their souls was that they had not been able to get a decent existence for their bodies?
- There is one kind of prison where the man is behind bars, and everything that he desires is outside; and there is another kind where the things are behind the bars, and the man is outside.
- There is no wilderness where I can hide from these things, there is no haven where I can escape them; though I travel to the ends of the earth, I find the same accursed system — I find that all the fair and noble impulses of humanity, the dreams of poets and the agonies of martyrs, are shackled and bound in the service of organized and predatory Greed!
- "What," asks the prophet, "is the murder of them that kill the body, to the murder of them that kill the soul?"
- It was the incarnation of blind insensate Greed. It was a monster devouring with a thousand mouths, trampling with a thousand hoofs: it was the Great Butcher — it was the spirit of Capitalism made flesh.
- The working-man was to fix his hopes upon a future life, while his pockets were picked in this one; he was brought up to frugality, humility, obedience—in short to all the pseudo-virtues of capitalism.
- Would the two, for his enlightenment, try to ascertain just what they had in common, and why they belonged to the same party? This resulted, after much debating, in the formulating of two carefully worded propositions: First, that a Socialist believes in the common ownership and democratic management of the means of producing the necessities of life; and, second, that a Socialist believes that the means by which this is to be brought about is the class conscious political organization of the wage-earners.
- “Communism in material production, anarchism in intellectual,” was the formula of modern proletarian thought.
- Chicago now led the country; it had set a new standard for the party, it had shown the working-men the way!
— So spoke an orator upon the platform; and two thousand pairs of eyes were fixed upon him, and two thousand voices were cheering his every sentence. The orator had been the head of the city's relief bureau in the stockyards, until the sight of misery and corruption had made him sick. He was young, hungry-looking, full of fire; and as he swung his long arms and beat up the crowd, to Jurgis he seemed the very spirit of the revolution. "Organize! Organize! Organize!" that was his cry. He was afraid of this tremendous vote, which his party had not expected, and which it had not earned. "These men are not Socialists!" he cried. "This election will pass, and the excitement will die, and people will forget about it; and if you forget about it, too, if you sink back and rest upon your oars, we shall lose this vote that we have polled today, and our enemies will laugh us to scorn! It rests with you to take your resolution now, in the flush of victory, to find these men who have voted for us, and bring them to our meetings, and organize them and bind them to us! We shall not find all our campaigns as easy as this one. Everywhere in the country tonight the old party politicians are studying this vote, and setting their sails by it; and nowhere will they be quicker or more cunning than here in our own city. Fifty thousand Socialist votes in Chicago means a municipal-ownership Democracy in the spring! And then they will fool the voters once more, and all the powers of plunder and corruption will be swept into office again! But whatever they may do when they get in, there is one thing they will not do, and that will be the thing for which they were elected! They will not give the people of our city municipal ownership,they will not mean to do it, they will not try to do it; all that they will do is give our party in Chicago the greatest opportunity that has ever come to Socialism in America! We shall have the sham reformers selfstultified and self-convicted; we shall have the radical Democracy left without a lie with which to cover its nakedness! And then will begin the rush that will never be checked, the tide that will never turn till it has reached its flood that will be irresistible, overwhelming the rallying of the outraged workingmen of Chicago to our standard! And we shall organize them, we shall drill them, we shall marshal them for the victory! We shall bear down the opposition, we shall sweep it before us and Chicago will be ours! Chicago will be ours! CHICAGO WILL BE OURS!"
- The Jungle at the Internet Archive
- Free eBook of The Jungle at Project Gutenberg
- The Jungle serialized in The Sun newspaper from the Florida Digital Newspaper Library
- PBS special report marking the 100th anniversary of the novel
- Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism revisits The Jungle