The problem I have with the Jungle is not the gratuitous violence, not the pain and suffering. I am ok with this. I am even ok with the Rudkus family life going to hell and back. That is what makes for a good story. Literary characters are supposed to have crappy lives; no one wants to read about an average, normal day. No one at all wants to read about the happy life of Joe Blow.
My problem with this book is that it is obvious that Sinclair has a motive. He is not writing this book for fun, or even out of expression. It is written to destroy capitalism. Now, I am far from being a capitalist above all else. I voted for Obama. I think that we should have good healthcare available to all. I think that bankers should be fair, and that the government should help people out when they need it.
However, I don’t like literature, or any other media that beats us over the head with this idea, or any other idea. The Jungle does this. It is one big anti-capitalist rant disguised as a novel. I hate this. I don’t mind a theme or maybe illusions to the way the author actually feels but when someone has an obvious agenda that is beaten into the reader it bothers me. The problem with knowing too clearly how the author stands on a subject is that it makes the entire novel difficult to believe. If you know that the author loves or hates a concept with all their heart (and Sinclair obviously does hate capitalism) then it is difficult to believe everything the author says.
Let me explain. An author may out and out lie at times, to protect a cause he believes in. He also may stretch the truth, or perhaps tell only one side of the truth in order to make their cause seem completely just and the other side seem evil. This causes me to doubt everything an author says.
This is the case in Sinclair. I have no doubt that the conditions in the stockyards were bad, but, as Sinclair is so anti capitalist, I have no idea how bad. How much is true, and how much is spin? I don’t know. That is the problem with Sinclair, and The Jungle