Readers' Review: "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair

MS. DIANE REHM

11:06:55
Thanks for joining, I'm Diane Rehm. Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel "The Jungle" chronicles a hard working immigrant family, seeking a better life. But brutal labor conditions and a corrupt political system bring desperation and death. The book was immensely influential at the time and remains a gripping story today.

MS. DIANE REHM

11:07:27
Joining me for this month's readers review to talk about "The Jungle" and its contemporary relevance, Gardiner Harris. He's science reporter for the New York Times. Peggy Ann Brown is writer and independent researcher and Lisa Page is president of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and a creative writing teacher, George Washington University.

MS. DIANE REHM

11:07:59
The other day, somebody asked me for a recommendation for a book that would be relevant, up to date, and this is the book I recommended. Just a stunning, stunning novel. Gardner Harris, what did you think of it?

MR. GARDINER HARRIS

11:08:20
Well, I think you're right, Diane. In terms of -- there's obviously a lot of relevance to today. I mean, what struck me was how many things that Sinclair talks about that I've been writing about over the last five years. You know, the use of downer cows, he talks about. The use of all, you know, sick animals in the slaughter house. I mean, the sort of the sickness associated with it and all that.

MR. GARDINER HARRIS

11:08:44
Of course, you know, right now, there is a listeria outbreak going on in cantaloupes.

REHM

11:08:48
cantaloupes.

HARRIS

11:08:49
In cantaloupes, 13 people have died. I mean, as you know, we have talked about this on any number of programs, the food safety issues that continue to ripple across this country. And what's remarkable is how so many of those issues are sort of never-ending. And, of course, for Sinclair, his book really is about worker conditions. I mean, that's what he is focused on, the sort of the terrible toll that working in these slaughter houses have.

HARRIS

11:09:25
And, of course, that hasn't changed either. I mean, you remember the Hormel meat packing plant strike that went on in Minnesota for, what, something like 10 years. And meat packing continues to be one of the most difficult working environments in this country, so sort of on multiple levels. Not only on the workplace level, but also on the food safety level. What Upton Sinclair describes -- now, obviously, it was even worse back then, but the issues that he talks about are very much relevant today.

REHM

11:09:58
Peggy Ann Brown, it is clear that what Upton Sinclair did was to go in undercover and himself work in these plants in order to create this unbelievably detailed and rich novel.

MS. PEGGY ANN BROWN

11:10:22
Well, Sinclair actually didn't work at the packing plants, but what he did do was for seven weeks, lived in Chicago and was able to go undetected into the plants and study conditions there. Because of his socialist connections, he also spoke with settlement house workers, lawyers, physicians, the workers themselves and was able to get this elaborate picture of what was happening.

MS. PEGGY ANN BROWN

11:10:47
His technique would be to dress as he was, he was -- had recently been in poverty himself and so he looked like a poor man. He would go into the factories and study the conditions as he saw them and then return back to his room where he was staying and write down everything that he had seen.

REHM

11:11:05
But how could he do that? I mean, was supervision so lax that he could simply wander those plants?

BROWN

11:11:16
He did wander in. And he said that there were -- when he didn't get a good understanding of a particular process, he would go back and wander time and time again through the room by dressing in his overalls and carrying a dinner pale. He just looked -- he was able to blend in with the other workers.

REHM

11:11:32
And yet, Lisa Page, nobody wanted to publish this book.

MS. LISA PAGE

11:11:37
Which is amazing. It's amazing to me -- well, of course, they didn't want to publish it, it has so much information that people didn't want to get out. It's scandalous, it changed the law. Yes, for -- for the whole meat industry...

HARRIS

11:11:51
Sure.

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11:11:51
...when it finally was published. It's also about the treatment of immigrants, Diane, and about class in Chicago. But throughout the country, frankly, the exploitation of workers. It's multifaceted and complicated and difficult.

REHM

11:12:09
Our hero, Jurgis, comes to this country with his family, truly seeking a better life for his then fiancé. But isn't it interesting that this novel opens with this glorious wedding taking place, this wedding that has everybody joyously participating. But we learn toward the end of the chapter that, at the time, guests were expected to contribute and they hardly got a dime.

HARRIS

11:12:51
Right. Right.

REHM

11:12:52
So they start out in poverty.

HARRIS

11:12:54
Right. But I mean, I think what's difficult, for me anyway, about reading this book is that it, you know, the book really starts at sort of a high note, this celebratory wedding celebration and everybody having a great time. And then just chapter after chapter, you get body blow after body blow of the various disasters that befall this family.

HARRIS

11:13:16
And I think also what is particularly difficult for me was, you know, yes, this is about the difficulties faced by immigrants, but, you know, I think -- I seem to remember from much of my American history that, I mean, most of those European immigrants were coming from truly disastrous situations. I mean, the sort of the pogroms that were going on in Eastern Europe and elsewhere were hell on earth.

HARRIS

11:13:40
And -- so even in some of these fairly bad conditions in the United States, many of them -- many of those conditions absolutely terrible, but for many of these families coming from places in -- you know, London was certainly no better and neither were some of the stettles and the ghettos in Europe. So I think many of the immigrants came, you know, inured to terrible conditions.

HARRIS

11:14:06
And, of course, what is unusual about Sinclair's character is that they actually were relatively well off, the sort of petty bourgeois. Jurgis' family had lived in a bucolic setting in the midst of a beautiful park and had a very good life, which, of course, makes the contrast to his situation once he arrives in the United States that much more stark.

REHM

11:14:28
I want to talk about the title of this book "The Jungle" because in this Oxford world classics version, there's a key paragraph left out. I don't know why, but Peggy Ann, would you read that paragraph for us?

BROWN

11:14:50
Yes. I just wanted to make one comment first. The book was called "The Jungle" when it was published in the appeal to reason. When, finally, Doubleday had agreed to publish it, they actually asked Sinclair to change the title and he didn't want to. But they said, well, if you won't change the title, at least we want you to take out some of the references to the jungle. And that's what he did. And this is an example of it.

BROWN

11:15:13
This is when the family is first coming to Chicago and this is sentences that are left out of the Oxford edition. "Then to the strangers, it seemed like a wilderness, a very jungle. A jungle of houses. It was a jungle too, ruled by strange powers about which they did not understand. Full of creatures which preyed upon each other. They were hunting you without rest. Tracking you in the daytime and watching in your path by night.

BROWN

11:15:41
The only difference was that they sought, not your life blood, but your money. And when you had been caught by them once or twice, you came to understand that this difference was no difference at all."

REHM

11:15:52
You see, it's the people who are part of that jungle of individuals being preyed upon. It is the animals who are preyed upon. It is the very society in its class system where those up above prey on those below.

BROWN

11:16:21
I think it's interesting that in the metaphors that are used to describe, particularly Jurgis, that you do get this animal metaphors. He's like a steer that's gotten loose in the factory. He's a buffalo roaming around in his wildness. So there's that imagery, but there's also the imagery of the people being the cogs in the machines being able to be the replaceable parts when they get ill because it's unskilled labor, just a tiny little bit, they're able to be quickly taken out and replaced.

REHM

11:16:50
Here's a message from Kate who says she grew up in Chicago, that people are still hush, hush about slaughter houses there because jobs were lost after this book, "The Jungle" came out.

HARRIS

11:17:12
Right. Well, you know, Diane, in many ways, I'm a failed muckraker. You know this. You've known me for a long time. And I've, of course, spent a long time in the coal fields of Eastern Kentucky and went in a lot of mines. I wrote investigative stories about it. I wrote even a novel about it. And, you know, that same sort of code of silence, of course, happens today, to this day.

HARRIS

11:17:35
And in the coal fields, I mean, we saw this in the recent -- in the disaster two years ago and in the wake of that disaster, almost no one in the mine, you know, spoke to reporters or spoke to the inspectors. And then, over the course of the four, five or six months after the disaster, when people finally realized that they either could not go back to the mine or would not, they finally began to open up about the terrible conditions there.

HARRIS

11:18:03
And that sort of code of silence happens in the coal mine community right now. I mean, most -- in my experience, in Eastern Kentucky, most of those mines do not run particularly safe on a day to day basis. And the coal miners go along with those conditions because they feel that if they do not, they will lose their jobs.

REHM

11:18:20
And you still have sweat shops going on in this country with many, many people jammed into single rooms, producing goods. We'll take a short break here. You can join us, 800-433-8850.

REHM

11:20:04
Welcome back. Our book for our monthly Readers' Review is Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle." I hope you'll join us, 800-433-8850. Earlier, you heard Peggy Ann Brown read a paragraph that has been, I don't know what to say, deliberately left out, thrown out, disregarded from the Oxford World classic that all of us read. Peggy Ann, talk about what else got left out.

BROWN

11:20:45
Well, the edition that we're reading, the Oxford edition, is actually the 1906 Doubleday edition and that's the one that's been published since that time. And the one that everyone would be familiar with. When Sinclair first wrote the novel, he wrote it as a serial for the socialist weekly "The Appeal to Reason." And that version actually was 30,000 words longer than this Doubleday version.

REHM

11:21:06
Thirty-thousand.

HARRIS

11:21:08
Paid by the word, I'm sure. Just like Charles Dickens.

REHM

11:21:12
Yeah.

BROWN

11:21:13
Actually, he got a flat rate of $500...

HARRIS

11:21:16
Oh, he did.

BROWN

11:21:17
...to write the novel. But when Doubleday agreed -- and this was after McMillan had turned down the novel and five other publishers had turned down the novel, they said, take out the blood and guts. And so the novel in its original form was even worse than what we've read today.

REHM

11:21:35
And we've got lots of blood and guts in here.

BROWN

11:21:39
Absolutely. But the thing that's more curious is actually that he -- that Sinclair cut some sections of the novel that would have made the reader more sympathetic toward the characters. And I can give you one example. In the novel, Stanislovas, Ona's brother, becomes very frightened of the cold when he sees another boy in the large room has his ears break off because they're frostbitten. In the original -- and that's -- it just cuts off like that in the Doubleday version. The ears were rubbed off. In the "Appeal to Reason" version it says the ears fell off. The young boy falls on the floor writhing in pain. Just the addition of that, that's what the reader is left with, this image of this poor boy on the floor, whereas in this version all we have is the picture of the ears on the floor.

REHM

11:22:30
But has anyone since 1906 published the unexpurgated version?

BROWN

11:22:39
There have been two editions when it was published. It was published in 1988, which is the "Appeal to Reason" version and it's kind of an interesting story. It seemed to have been lost to history and a construction worker went to Pittsburg State University in Kansas and said, we have found these manuscripts in this old house and a special collections library, and took them. And it took him eight years to go through them and remove the mold. And he had the version from the "Appeal to Reason."

BROWN

11:23:08
Then in 2003, which is the version that I read from, which was from a publication called "One-Hoss Philosophy," which was owned by the same publisher who did "Appeal to Reason." It was a quarterly publication at the time. And so this edition is drawn from that version.

REHM

11:23:25
But the one that most people see in the bookstores is this original...

BROWN

11:23:33
The 1906 Doubleday version.

REHM

11:23:34
...the 1906...

HARRIS

11:23:36
Is the director's cut Peggy is talking about.

REHM

11:23:40
The director's cut.

HARRIS

11:23:40
And isn't this the way, Diane? I mean, those darn editors who always get you.

REHM

11:23:45
Yeah. So there are different versions of the story, but it is in whatever form you read it a very, very powerful story. Before Jurgis gets his job in the meatpacking plant, he gets a tour of the plant. And he's very impressed, Lisa.

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11:24:09
And excited. He's thrilled to be there. He sees the economy of the situation. He sees how hard everyone's working. The speeding up even gets him excited. He's like, I can do this. I'm strong. And he is, at that point of the book, strong enough for that work. But that goes away.

REHM

11:24:28
That goes away because they quickly realize that everyone in the family is going to have to work because they have been lured into buying a house...

HARRIS

11:24:47
Right. I mean...

REHM

11:24:47
...which is said to be new.

HARRIS

11:24:49
Right. I mean -- I mean, again, you sort of get echoes of the crisis going on in housing right now with the liar's loans and all the rest of -- with obviously tens of thousands of people right now losing their homes. And so they get suckered in even though they get opinions from two lawyers who seemingly are independent, that this is all right. But, of course, they do not realize that they not only have to pay the $12 a month that -- to sort of pay for rent, but they're gonna have to then start paying interest. And there are all sorts of taxes. And...

REHM

11:25:25
And it's supposed to be a brand new house.

HARRIS

11:25:29
Right. Which, of course, is already 15 years old at that point.

REHM

11:25:32
And painted over and over...

HARRIS

11:25:34
Right.

REHM

11:25:35
...and just repaired in a ramshackle fashion.

PAGE

11:25:38
And it has a cesspool underneath it...

HARRIS

11:25:40
Right.

PAGE

11:25:41
...for all of the drainage of all of the people that have lived there that has collected.

HARRIS

11:25:46
Right. So it's -- and of course, you know, in one of the many body blows that ends up hitting Jurgis, you know, the street outside is not paved. And his toddler, 18-month-old son, about two-thirds of the book, ends up falling into the mud and drowning is sort of the last, you know, body blow that strikes Jurgis in the sort of the first portion of the book.

HARRIS

11:26:11
We were talking earlier and Peggy was talking about how Sinclair actually was interested in making two books. And there is sort of an extraordinary break...

REHM

11:26:22
You're right.

HARRIS

11:26:22
...after the death of his child.

REHM

11:26:23
...his -- and of his wife.

HARRIS

11:26:25
And of his wife, of course.

REHM

11:26:28
You know, the thing that interested me was that he, Jurgis, goes almost nuts because he learns that his wife has been seduced by one of the bosses and seduced for money.

HARRIS

11:26:53
Right. I don't think seduction is quite the word, but is forced to have sex with the boss, yeah.

REHM

11:26:58
Well, okay. All right. Forced to have sex for money that she believes she's got to contribute to the upkeep of the household.

BROWN

11:27:08
I'm not sure that actually it's for money more than to be able to keep her position.

HARRIS

11:27:12
...keep her job, yeah.

BROWN

11:27:13
Because he also threatens her that he knows the bosses of everyone else in the family and that...

REHM

11:27:19
So Jurgis goes nuts and goes after the guy. And then the system kicks in.

PAGE

11:27:27
Well, and he loses his job and he goes to jail and the family loses their jobs and they lose their house. And it all collapses.

REHM

11:27:36
...falls apart.

PAGE

11:27:37
And that same boss stays in power. His name is Connor Riley (sic) . And eventually Jurgis meets him later...

HARRIS

11:27:44
Yeah, exactly.

PAGE

11:27:45
...and beats him up again.

HARRIS

11:27:46
Has become by then a power in sort of the Irish Mafia.

BROWN

11:27:51
Mafia, right.

REHM

11:27:52
But the point being that he prevents Jurgis from getting any job anywhere.

PAGE

11:28:00
He's blacklisted.

BROWN

11:28:01
Right.

REHM

11:28:01
He's blacklisted. Now, there's an e-mail there, Lisa, that you might want to read and let's get some opinions on this.

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11:28:13
"Diane, when I was in high school in the 1960s, my American History teacher recommended 'The Jungle.' It wasn't required and for some reason I actually read it. It helped to radicalize me. Not that I thought that the U.S. in the '60s was the same as the U.S. in 1906, but injustice was still injustice and it continued to be institutionalized in so many ways in our country. In later years, I read more of the radical writings of Upton Sinclair and Jack London. It was wonderful.

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11:28:40
Recently, however, I listened to 'The Jungle' as an audio book version on a long trip. It was still excellent, but I was surprised at some of the racist elements in the book. It is Chapter 26 as I recall, which profiles the strike breaking at the meat processing plant, strike breaking by African Americans. Now such events took place many times and across different working situations in our history, making cooperation between white and black workers difficult. But the way that Upton Sinclair profiled this sort of event was shocking.

PAGE

11:29:11
These African Americans sheltered behind the factory gates day and night are pictured as dancing around bonfires through the night, like so many primitive peoples. Also drinking and cavorting, inviting loose white women to join them in their beastly behavior. Hey, these are almost word for word taken from Upton Sinclair's own descriptions, and you could've knocked me over with a feather. I suppose his writings were indicative of the times and should be appreciated as such. But even in context, it's good to remember that he was a leftist radical. Perhaps I expected better. Paul"

REHM

11:29:43
It's interesting from Paul. What's your reaction, Peggy Ann?

BROWN

11:29:47
Well, I agree with you that those descriptions are horrible. On the other hand, and this doesn't make them acceptable, he was the middle class reformer. Other middle class reformers had the same nativism, racism and expressed it. He was also a southerner. And I think that doesn't forgive it but perhaps explains it a little.

BROWN

11:30:07
There -- the images are horrible and I don't believe that the workers were dancing around in the factories. There is documentation that there was a lot of death and disease during the strike because the people were living inside the factories in very close conditions. And why he doesn't bring that more out...

REHM

11:30:27
Yeah.

BROWN

11:30:27
...and has these horrible caricatures, it's unclear other than to say that just as a middle class reformer of the time period, that's how they -- they talked about (unintelligible) .

HARRIS

11:30:38
Well, remember this was the time of obviously Teddy Roosevelt. And, you know, Teddy Roosevelt had -- was the first president to have dinner with a black man at the White House. And it happened right at this time and it caused a national scandal that Teddy Roosevelt would do this. And Teddy Roosevelt -- and it threatened his reelection prospects. It was such a terrible -- seen as such a terrible thing across the country...

REHM

11:31:04
All right.

HARRIS

11:31:04
...that he never did it again. And, you know, that sort of racism was absolutely so common across the country.

REHM

11:31:11
Let's open the phones. We'll go first to Limestone, Tenn. Good morning, Eric, you're on the air.

ERIC

11:31:20
Good morning. I just have to wonder what your thoughts are on how much has changed in industry. If this book hadn't been published, we likely wouldn't have the FDA. How much has actually changed in industry in the way that they treat workers basically like a commodity. Like in the book, they treat them pretty much as the animals that they're slaughtering.

REHM

11:31:48
Gardiner.

HARRIS

11:31:50
Oh, boy, that's a tough one. I mean, I think, you know, let's be fair. There are just enormous reforms that have come up since then. I think the worker's comp system is probably, you know, which is a nationwide system, is probably sort of the most important. Because, you know, what happens to Jurgis and what happens to everybody else in the factory is that this -- you know, he sprains his ankle at one point and he is out of work for two months. And it all but destroys the family.

HARRIS

11:32:17
I think you would be hard pressed to find certainly there -- the New York Times had a Pulitzer Prize winning series a few years ago about these pipefitting companies that had, by far, the worst worker's comp records in the country, where people were getting killed and injured. But that -- I think that level of injury and death -- I think you would -- it just does not happen at this point.

REHM

11:32:45
But would the FDA have been created had it not been for this book?

HARRIS

11:32:50
Well, that's also sort of under dispute by historians. I mean, obviously there was -- I mean, Upton Sinclair was not the first or even the only muckraker of the day. There was considerable push toward some -- toward the Pure Food Drug Act of 1906. He helped sort of push that reform enormously, but it probably would've happened without him.

REHM

11:33:18
Gardiner Harris of the New York Times. He's also author of the mystery novel "Hazard." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Lisa.

PAGE

11:33:31
Yeah, I want to sort of take issue with you here a little bit...

HARRIS

11:33:33
Please.

PAGE

11:33:34
...because there was a book about tomatoes out this year, about immigrants working in tomatoes in Florida, and I'm sorry I don't remember the name of the book or the writer, but the immigrants there were horribly exploited. There are problems with pesticides...

HARRIS

11:33:49
Absolutely.

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11:33:50
...very comparable to what's happening here. Am I...

HARRIS

11:33:54
I think -- I mean, I certainly think that certainly, you know, with the -- in some of the fruit picking and in the vegetable processing, because largely those workers are illegal immigrants at this point they're sort of -- their legal status is sort of always in jeopardy. They tend not to complain. And I think that there has been some pretty good journalism and some investigations about the working conditions in those plants.

HARRIS

11:34:23
And oddly enough, you know, one of the big pushes towards improving those conditions is actually coming from the FDA because what has gone on is that you have poor sanitation on the part of the workers. They don't have any facilities to go to the bathroom so that -- then they end up passing on e-coli onto the plants themselves. And so...

REHM

11:34:46
And that seems to be perhaps what happened in this latest outbreak with the cantaloupe so...

HARRIS

11:34:53
...of cantaloupes, exactly. So it's a constant problem and -- but there are pushes to sort of address it. And I'm not saying that these problems have disappeared, but the sort of jungle-like atmosphere that sort of pervades all of Chicago I think, you know, for a fair-minded person you would be hard pressed to sort of find those conditions, you know, throughout an area.

REHM

11:35:18
All right. Peggy Ann, you wanted to add something.

BROWN

11:35:20
I was just going to say that while there were a number of investigators looking into aspects of the Pure Food and Drug Act, I think that Sinclair's novel was successful in doing -- giving that final nudge...

HARRIS

11:35:32
Right.

BROWN

11:35:33
...that Roosevelt said he was getting so much correspondence from his constituents who were saying, you have to look into this. And he did send two investigators after "The Jungle" was published to Chicago to look into it. And they said actually that parts of the novel were understated.

REHM

11:35:51
What about the creation of the union movement here?

BROWN

11:35:56
Sinclair really doesn't talk much about the unions in the novel. He was not a big union supporter. And so I think that that was one aspect that probably should've come out more in the novel...

REHM

11:36:08
Interesting.

BROWN

11:36:08
...and doesn't.

HARRIS

11:36:09
Right. His character Jurgis was a strike breaker, you know, oddly enough.

REHM

11:36:14
Right. In the end, he...

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11:36:16
But again for money.

HARRIS

11:36:16
Right. Absolutely.

REHM

11:36:17
Exactly. Let's go to Sterling, Va. Very quickly, Gary, you're on the air.

GARY

11:36:24
I rode on a train with ten meat packers and they all didn't want to talk about the killing room. And they all agreed that if they had a room where all the cattle could be moved into and the oxygen pumped out and soft music played to them and the cattle went to sleep, and then they could go in and slaughter them. I told them also a village, an el valle in the Republic of Panama was famous for their chicken. And what it was they used to give the chicken a tablespoon of wine, it'd go to sleep and then they'd kill it.

REHM

11:37:00
You know, it's interesting because people like Temple Grandin who has autism in her history and background came up with this whole idea of how to mercifully do away with the cattle as opposed to slaughtering them in the way they clearly do in this book. We've got to take a short break. Gary, thanks for your call. When we come back, we'll go to Orlando, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Ohio.

MS. DIANE REHM

11:40:03
And here's an email as we talk about Upton Sinclair's book "The Jungle." It's from Mack who says, "This show so far is giving the same narrow treatment to "The Jungle" that it received at the time the book was originally published. Sinclair was seeking to promote a general Democratic Socialism in America and overturning of the corporate (word?) of his time. Instead, the public and the corporate controlled press at that time got all upset about the very limited issue of food contamination and created better safety laws. Sinclair famously said, quote, 'I aimed for America's heart, but I hit its stomach.'" Peggy Ann.

MS. PEGGY ANN BROWN

11:41:05
This was a quote that Sinclair said over and over and Mack's absolutely correct. Sinclair felt that presenting the facts, people would understand that socialism was the way out of all these problems. At the same time, Sinclair admitted to Macmillan and Doubleday that the book should have been put into two separate parts, that the second half was not successful in communicating to the readers why socialism would be the way out.

REHM

11:41:34
Do you think that that's why so many people have gotten focused on the one issue and not the broad issue?

BROWN

11:41:43
I think that and also the fact that those images are so startling you can't help but focus on them, but also just as I said before, the fact that he took out some of the more empathetic sections of the book, that the middle class reader who was reading this book, all they could think about were their own concerns about food and they couldn't identify at all with the characters and what was happening to them.

REHM

11:42:06
All right. Let's go to Centerville, Ohio. Good morning, James. You're on the air.

JAMES

11:42:14
Yes. What concerns me and really alarms me, especially of late and ties in with this book, is how especially politicians and particularly Republicans seem to stress how important it is that we not do anything, especially raise taxes, that will in any way hurt or cause problems with the wealthy that, quote, "create jobs." And no one talks about the worker. And no matter how many people there are that invest money to create jobs, without the worker, you know, nothing will get done.

JAMES

11:42:52
And we do nothing to uplift the worker in our country even still today, forget about 1906. Now Ann Ran and her book where all of the wealthy and the inventers leave and say, well, what will to happen to society if we're not around? Let's leave and see what happens. How about if all of the workers were to leave, the ones that create the proverbial widgets and there were no widgets left. I mean, the worker is so key to our society, but yet no one talks about the worker and what's needed to help them. It's always those who create the jobs.

REHM

11:43:25
Lisa.

MS. LISA PAGE

11:43:26
Well, I agree with that statement. I also think that the other people who are not talked about very much in the press are the poor. Whether they're the working poor or they're not working, they're getting ignored. And there are reports today from Chicago of young children on the south side coming to school unwashed because they don't have running water in their homes. Those are real stories happening in America that we don't wanna look at. We wanna look at other things.

MR. GARDINER HARRIS

11:43:53
Yeah, I mean, I think every one of the bad guys in this book would be called a job creator today.

PAGE

11:43:58
Yeah, absolutely.

HARRIS

11:43:59
You know, Diane, I think -- and it's obviously a very different ethic that Upton Sinclair has and, of course, even the very definition of what socialism is has changed dramatically. When people term Barack Obama a socialist, I think Upton Sinclair would not recognize the term.

REHM

11:44:19
Interesting.

HARRIS

11:44:19
So the political spectrum obviously has shifted enormously since then.

REHM

11:44:23
I wanna ask you all about the second half of this book because it seems so out of sync with the first half of the book in that Jurgis loses his mind in effect and runs, runs out to the country, sleeps wherever he can find. And then he encounters one of Chicago's wealthiest sons and stays with him for -- it didn't make any sense to me. Did it to you? What was Sinclair doing there?

BROWN

11:45:12
I think that the second half of the book very clearly matches with some of the problems Sinclair was having in his own life. And he said that he was bothered by problems with his ill wife and his ill son and that he poured a lot of the emotion from that experience into the novel. When he was telling Macmillan that he wanted to separate the book into two halves, he said, I need to do more research. I need to go back. I need to find out about the politics of Chicago. And so it was obvious that he did not have this section as well researched. He's trying to show the contrast with Freddie Jones with Jurgis, but he's not successful in...

REHM

11:45:55
No.

BROWN

11:45:55
...making that mean anything.

REHM

11:45:56
No.

HARRIS

11:45:58
Well, Lisa probably knows this better than I 'cause -- as head of PEN/Faulkner. I mean, but my sense in writing myself is that, you know, that middle third of the book when you write a book is by far the most challenging. It's so -- it's relatively easy to set up your characters and set up your problems. And then your resolution you sort of have in mind, but sort of getting from your set up to your resolution is sort of the meat of the book and can be so difficult where all of the strains have to sort of braid together. And I really got the sense in reading this that Upton Sinclair hadn't really figured out how to make the braid.

PAGE

11:46:37
I think that's right and I'm so impressed with what you've been saying that he...

REHM

11:46:41
Two.

PAGE

11:46:41
...meant this to be two books...

REHM

11:46:43
Yeah.

PAGE

11:46:43
...because it felt like that to me.

HARRIS

11:46:44
Right.

PAGE

11:46:45
The other dynamic when you talk about literature and its structure that struck me about the book is you have the conflict, the conflict, the conflict, no resolution...

HARRIS

11:46:55
Right, right, right.

PAGE

11:46:55
...conflict, conflict, no resolution, until the end and then you've got Socialism.

REHM

11:46:59
Whoa.

HARRIS

11:47:00
Right. In a pages, pages long speech.

PAGE

11:47:03
Exactly. And it doesn't work really.

HARRIS

11:47:04
You know, it's fairly unsatisfying, yeah.

PAGE

11:47:06
Yeah, it doesn't work.

REHM

11:47:06
Yeah, and then there's the criminal element in Chicago that he even becomes involved in.

PAGE

11:47:15
And the political machine which...

REHM

11:47:17
And the political machine.

PAGE

11:47:18
...which is still there...

HARRIS

11:47:19
Right, right.

PAGE

11:47:19
...even if Mr. Emmanuel (sp?) could try and change it.

HARRIS

11:47:21
There's another thing we didn't even talk about...

PAGE

11:47:22
Yeah, right.

HARRIS

11:47:22
...you know, how it's present today and they're talking about paying people to vote and, you know, sort of all what...

PAGE

11:47:29
Absolutely.

HARRIS

11:47:29
...Chicago has long been famous for, its political corruption.

PAGE

11:47:31
And dead people voting.

HARRIS

11:47:33
Yes.

PAGE

11:47:33
Vote early and vote many times.

REHM

11:47:35
Exactly. And some people literally voted many times. What was the public reaction when the book first came out?

BROWN

11:47:45
Well, the reaction was to the images of how their food was being prepared. Everyone became vegetarians for awhile. They were worried about what was going into their food stuff. They were able to -- this was the final nudge to get that Pure Food and Drug Act passed in June.

REHM

11:48:03
But was it a best seller?

BROWN

11:48:06
It was a best seller.

REHM

11:48:07
It was.

BROWN

11:48:07
It was. Within I think it was six weeks it had sold 25,000 copies. Doubleday was approached by a staff member from Armour who tried to bribe him and...

HARRIS

11:48:20
That's a meat packer.

BROWN

11:48:21
A meat packer. Armour's a meat packer. And he was so offended by this because he said, can you kinda cut back on the publicity and don't publish it in Europe. And Doubleday was so offended by this that within the year, it was translated to 17 languages and became a sensation in Europe also.

REHM

11:48:37
Interesting. Let's go to Arlington, Texas. Good morning, Ed.

ED

11:48:43
Hi. So am I correct in understanding that the most atonally available versions of this book are incomplete? Typically when I want to read a serious work of literature, I consult Norton Critical Editions or the Modern Library. I was under the impression that they would probably have produced a reliable copy of this book. Are you saying that, no, that those versions would be incomplete? And if so, where...

BROWN

11:49:08
No, they're not incomplete. The version that's available is the 1906 Doubleday version that Sinclair approved, but the original version that appeared in the "Appeal to Reason," "The Socialist Weekly," and in "One-Hoss Philosophy" include the sections that he cut out for the Doubleday version.

REHM

11:49:28
Where can one get that?

BROWN

11:49:31
I don't think that the 1988 version is available anymore. It was not well publicized and is no longer in print. The edition that was from One-Hoss Philosophy is published by See Sharp Press and it's called "The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition." And I believe that this is still available. It came out in 2003.

REHM

11:49:57
And do you think that might be available on Amazon?

BROWN

11:50:02
I think that it might be. I'm not positive about that.

REHM

11:50:04
Good. Well, give a good look for it. Ed, I'm with you. Let's go to Stueyville (sp?) , Utah. Good morning, Shauna.

SHAUNA

11:50:15
Good morning, Diane. Thanks for having me.

REHM

11:50:17
Sure.

SHAUNA

11:50:18
I just wanted to make a comment from some remarks of the previous caller who said something to the effect of nobody is thinking this day of the workers, we always want to think of the people who are the job creators. And I would just point out that it were because of labor unions and workers that a lot of these safety requirements and regulations were actually put into place under the safety of a organized union. Many workers were able to stand up to employers and actually refuse to go into unsafe conditions and still keep their jobs and not have the fear of losing their livelihood.

SHAUNA

11:50:58
And I think that labor unions play a huge part in all of this and they have. At the time that this was going on, there was a rise of labor unions. And I would propose that perhaps we maybe take a look at the correlation between the kind of labor unions in today's workplace and what's happening in the workplace and safety conditions as well as the other regulations that have come into play with this. And I know I have a bad connection, so I'll take any comments off the air. Thank you.

REHM

11:51:26
All right, Shauna. Thanks for calling.

HARRIS

11:51:29
Well, that's right. I mean, right now there is a huge debate going on in this country about regulations, government regulations. And, you know, many of the Republican candidates for president believe and are saying that regulations are choking the economy of the United States. It is regulations, though, that basically have created the environment that save people's lives on a day to day basis. It's the regulations in coal mines. They were just reformed again two years ago in the wake of yet another disaster. It's the regulations in construction sites.

HARRIS

11:52:07
Silicosis was once at very high levels in this country. Silicosis is something that can kill you very quickly through sort of a emphysema like reaction where essentially your lungs get cut as if they were ground in glass. There are countless workplace injuries that are less common and are not present at all because of these sort of regulations. And I think that people sort of tend to forget sort of the upside of regulations.

REHM

11:52:47
Gardiner Harris of The New York Times. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Winter Garden, Fla. Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS

11:52:59
Good morning, Diane. I love the show.

REHM

11:53:02
Thank you.

CHRIS

11:53:04
Diane, I wanted to maybe ask -- have your panel talk about contemporary muckraking with regards to film and television. I'm specifically thinking about the PBS documentary "Banks and the Poor" that exposed redlining or Frederick Wiseman's "Titicut Follies" which exposed the Boston mental health system. And as film and television obviously has made an impact on the muckraker's job, but what specific comments maybe do your panel have as to making it easier or making it more difficult?

REHM

11:53:38
Lisa.

PAGE

11:53:39
Well, I think that it's a great time that we have a documentary like "Food, Inc." that...

HARRIS

11:53:44
Right.

PAGE

11:53:45
...breaks down what's happening today with the beef industry. The other film about like "Fast Food Nation."

HARRIS

11:53:53
Nation, right.

PAGE

11:53:54
And then there was the -- I mean, all of these films have I think moved the discussion forward and made people a lot more aware of what's happening and I think that's good news.

HARRIS

11:54:05
Right. I mean, some of the original muckraking work was obviously in mental health institutions. I mean, they began in the 1870s and 1880s. And what's remarkable is just what a well spring that sort of muckraking has been. I mean, they continued through the '60s and '70s. Who am I think of, the famous TV journalist with the mustache who sort of established themselves in New York by a famous insider look at sort of the mental health institutions, you know...

REHM

11:54:38
Are you talking about "60 Minutes" or...

HARRIS

11:54:40
No. Well, no.

BROWN

11:54:41
Geraldo.

HARRIS

11:54:42
Yeah, Geraldo, Geraldo.

REHM

11:54:43
Oh, Geraldo.

PAGE

11:54:43
Geraldo Rivera.

HARRIS

11:54:44
Geraldo Rivera. I mean, he made his...

PAGE

11:54:46
Yes, it's true.

HARRIS

11:54:46
...bones by yet another sort of muckraking thing on a mental health thing. And The Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize I wanna say four or five years ago exposing problems in dealing with children with mental disabilities in Washington D.C. I mean, I think this stuff goes on and hopefully will continue to go on forever.

HARRIS

11:55:08
I'm at The New York Times. You know, we have a very strong investigative unit. It is harder to sort of become employed in some of these places. We have rules against lying. Some of the underground sort of video, which oddly now of course is coming out, sometimes even on the Republican side. Obviously you're having some video semi journalist and political activists against ACORN and some of these...

REHM

11:55:34
Sure. And...

HARRIS

11:55:34
...other places, so this is a lively area that continues.

REHM

11:55:38
But Mike in Keller, Texas points out that we mentioned that Sinclair researched "The Jungle" by wandering around in packing plants. Try doing that anywhere now...

HARRIS

11:55:52
Right.

REHM

11:55:53
...near a modern food production facility. Michael Pollen has noted it's difficult even to photograph the exterior of a factory farm. One may as well forget about documenting any details of their operation.

HARRIS

11:56:12
Right. Infamously, Oprah was sued when she spoke...

PAGE

11:56:15
When she talked badly about hamburgers.

HARRIS

11:56:16
Exactly.

PAGE

11:56:17
But the other thing is that investigative journalists are fewer and farther between, so...

HARRIS

11:56:21
They are unfortunately.

REHM

11:56:22
Because newspapers are not putting the money...

HARRIS

11:56:26
A dime.

PAGE

11:56:27
Right, exactly.

HARRIS

11:56:27
I'm sorry, but my industry is going down the tubes, Diane.

PAGE

11:56:29
Excuse me, what did you say?

REHM

11:56:31
Well, I think we were talking about this last night at a small dinner party. I do believe that while a great many people are going to turn to online reading, The New York Times, however small, is gonna be with us.

HARRIS

11:56:52
I certainly hope so.

REHM

11:56:53
I do, too.

HARRIS

11:56:54
I'm hanging on with my bare hands here, Diane.

REHM

11:56:57
All right. Gardiner Harris, he's also a novelist. It's titled "Hazard." But his day job is a science reporter for The New York Times. Peggy Ann Brown is a writer and independent researcher. Lisa Page is president of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, creative writing teacher at George Washington University. And next month, on October 26, we're going to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the book children and adults adore "Peter Pan."

HARRIS

11:57:39
Wow.

REHM

11:57:39
So I hope you'll be with us. Thanks for listening all. The book we've been talking about, Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle."
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