full title · The Jungle
author · Upton Sinclair
type of work · Novel
genre · Social criticism, political fiction, muckraking fiction
language · English
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.
tense · Past
setting (time) · Early 1900s
setting (place) · Packingtown, the meat-packing sector of Chicago
protagonist · Jurgis
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.