Describe the impact/legislation passed as a result of Upton Sinclair's book, The Jungle?

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akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the most significant impacts of Sinclair's The Jungle was to raise questions about the potential dangers of capitalism.

Indeed, the legislative impact of Sinclair's work can be seen in the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.  However, Sinclair has a wider purpose in writing the book.  He wanted to shine a light on "the inferno of exploitation [of the typical American factory worker at the turn of the 20th Century]."  His work depicts a world where profit is deemed more important than human beings.  While Sinclair focused a great chunk of the work on food preparation, one of its greatest impacts can be seen in its depiction of the economic and social struggle of American workers.  Sinclair's point of view is a Socialist one, which sought to bring voice to the workers.  

The Jungle helped to shed a much needed light on the inhumane conditions that workers and immigrants endured.  Upon reading Sinclair's work, then- President Roosevelt believed that "radical action must be taken to do away with the efforts of arrogant and selfish greed on the part of the capitalist."  In this way, it is clear that one of the most enduring social impacts of The Jungle was to raise questions about the presence of unchecked capitalism in American society.

stolperia's profile pic

stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Upton Sinclair's goal in writing The Jungle was to expose the exploitation of factory workers, most of whom in the early twentieth century were immigrants desperate for any job they could get. However, the reading public's primary concern and reaction to the book focussed on issues of food safety, not labor practices.

As a result of the outcry after the book's publication, the Meat Inspection Act, which required sanitary conditions for the slaughtering and processing of meat products for food, was passed. Also enacted into law was the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which established procedures for federal inspection of meat processing plants. This act is considered the direct predecessor of the Food and Drug Administration.