Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Jungle

I am not really a fan of The Jungle. I had to drag myself along every page. It's one of those books I read once just to cross it off my list of classics. However, once the stockyard and meat scenes were described, I was hooked, at least for those parts. The descriptions of the stockyards are horrifying. Horrifying. The work itself, when it goes according to plan, is grim, filthy, smelly, and difficult, at the best of times. When things do not go according to plan, there are sick and "downed" cattle being slaughtered after normal hours, when the largely decorative government inspectors aren't around; there is spoiled meat left sitting for months boiled in with the rest of the witches' brew that becomes canned meat; we find men slipping on the greasy floors over the boiling vats of soon-to-be canned meat and falling in, after which their bones-the only bits left-are fished out, and the rest stays in the canned meat mixture; children accidentally locked inside the buildings at night, where the rats eat them alive before their remains are discovered in the morning. It's gross and sensational and totally memorable. I feel bad for Sinclair though. He envisioned an epic novel which would change immigration and battle capitalism and hold true to the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. But no. People only cared about themselves and their food. He should be proud though! How many novels ignite an uproar which leads to a federal investigation and the creation of the FDA? Just one! The one about boiled and canned humans and rat tumor burgers!

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