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Novel by Upton Sinclair, published in 1906. This exposé of the Chicago meat-packing industry prompted the investigation by Roosevelt and the federal government that culminated in the pure-food legislation of 1906.

Jurgis Rudkus, a Slav immigrant, marries frail Ona Lukoszaite and seeks security and happiness as a workman in the Chicago stockyards. Foremen abuse him, real-estate sharks filch his meager savings, and at every turn he is beset by misfortunes arising from the poverty, brutality, and disease that are the conditions of his employment. At the birth of a second child, amid direst want, Ona dies. Jurgis's morale temporarily disintegrates and he becomes successively a tramp, common thief, highwayman, and pawn of a corrupt politician. Then, having thought his way through this morass of chicanery and brutality, and despairing of the individual's capacity to face modern society alone, he arrives at a belief in socialism.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards).

Reference entries

Upton Sinclair (1878—1968) American novelist and social reformer

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