In “The Jungle,” Upton Sinclair had two compatible goals in mind: to create outrage with practice of selling diseased meat to the public and show a ympathy for laborers who were forced to work in such unsanitary conditions. However, in “The Jungle” Sinclair places psychologically shallow, unrealistic characters in an extremely detailed, realistic environment. Thus causing readers to be more affected by the horrific conditions of Packingtown. Versus the psychological damage on its residents. The novel destroys Sinclair’s second intention of the novel by making the audience to imagine the sight, smell, and taste of the environment of the meatpacking industry while simultaneously preventing any to no sympathy for the workers who were forced to endure such inhumane conditions.
Although “The Jungle” is a work of fiction, Sinclair’s uses of highly strong imagery details that link the novel to a form of writing “muckraking,” this was at its pinnicle in the time frame between the 1890s and 1920s. Muckraking aimed to expose social misconduct through explicit descriptions of shocking conditions and actions, but writers rarely interested in behavioral analysis. Sinclair’s style of writing pairs with photographic precision to highighten the external conditions to put emphasis on the immigrants work. “The Jungle” ruptures with the gritty details of Packingtown, and at many times seems as if Sinclair is describing a desacrated battlefield instead of a production zone for consumer goods: Packingtown is filled with rivers of blood and diseased carcasses. Sinclair emphasized the horrendous conditions of the warehouses to shine hopes that the revolting depictions would cause the public to reform the immigrants’ working conditions. The public, proved to be more affected by sympathy. Sinclair’s descriptive reports clearly aim at “the stomach”; the novel lingers on foul and disturbing images of poisoned rats and rusty nails in breakfast sausages. The response of the public to “The Jungle” would indicate, the dedication to be blunt and provide sensational details to help depict the laborers’ external circumstances, but does not provide the psychological damage.
The realism of Packingtown environment grabs the readers attention through the stimulation of the five senses, to help understand human costs due to such unsafe and unsanitary working conditions. Readers get to feel a sympathetic connection with the workers. for Sinclair to achieve his second goal—prompting reforms to help protect laborers—Sinclair decided to create characters that pertaining to the upper- and middle-class. Of which the readers of “The Jungle” could identify with. However, Sinclair’s attempt to make his protagonist, Jurgis, Sinclair ends up creating and ideal version of him. He paints Jurgis image as patriotic, hardworking, devoted son and new husband, the Lithuanian immigrant is free from personal flaws. Any consequence to occur are no fault of his own, but because of environmental contingencies. For example, Sinclair emphasizes capitalism as the cause of Jurgis’s descent into alcoholism, his abandonment of his family, and falling prey to the influence of reprobates. He makes it very clear by showing how Jurgis’s discovery of the Socialist politics will restore the humanity that which capitalism had taken away. After attending socialist meetings, Jurgis returns immediately to work and back to his family, rehabilitated by his other “comrades.” Overemphasizing his goodness in the industry barons’ corruption, Sinclair portrays Jurgis as a passive victim versus this active agent. Such idealism is a result in a flat, static character, which many times is devoid of any realistic humanity. Although ironically speaking, the fact that Jurgis unsympathetic traits make it very difficult for readers to identify with him. That is why it comes to no surprise, that Sinclair’s initial readers would feel drawn into the natural world of Packingtown—a world which engages on the levels of the five senses, sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch—and shows less concerne with the characters that hardly seem to be real people at all.
The fact that “The Jungle” features an unsympathetic protagonist with unbelievable characters who did not discourage the audience, and turned the novel into a bestseller and whose outcry was to attack and challenege the meat packing industry’s low expectations which resulted in the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. If the audience still persisted to advocate for a law in which would protect from consuming potentially contaminated meat products, even when faced with the irresolute realism aspects of the novel, which included the characters, it ironically shows Sinclair’s key fundamental point that human individuals are nothing if not only self-interested.