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The jungle

by Upton Sinclair; Maura Spiegel

  Print book : Fiction : Juvenile audience

Expose, historiography, science, or just a propaganda novel?   (2009-04-11)


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by dacase

I haven't read The Jungle cover-to-cover, but I did carefully read Maura Spiegel's Introduction, and I know enough about the story from reading multiple summaries.  I do not get it--how can an apparently apt writer, literally a literature professor at Columbia and Barnard, write such things as "...the only assertion in the novel that could not be independently verified..."?  (page xviii)  I am not referring to the sloppy redundancy of "independently."  Rather, this book is in fact virtually entirely a product of the imagination--the characters, their statements, the events, on and on--which Sinclair apparently always asserted.   Later in the Introduction Spiegel writes that Sinclair is unabashed in admitting that the book is intended as propaganda.  "What's wrong with propaganda?", Sinclair is quoted as asking (page xxiv).  A footnote for page 7 reveals that Sinclair's estimate of the size of the population of the Chicago area setting for the novel was off--too high--by over 400%.  Contrary to Spiegel, The Jungle did not inspire the first meat inspection law in 1906; one was on the books in 1891 (page 359).  I could go on to the point of exhausting the reader with these false and self-contradictory statements by the professor, but the question is why would Spiegel damage her reputation in this way?  Doesn't she understand the meanings of words like journalism expose, novel, historiography, propaganda, and science?  Is there some hidden agenda that comprises a smart trade-off for the damage to reputation?  Was she just rushed to the point of disasterous carelessness?  I just do not get it.  At any rate, readers should read everything else Spiegel writes with appropriate discounting.  Consider this review an expose in the actual meaning of words.

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