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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   



12. Migrant
Struggle


•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Rudolfo A. Anaya
- Carlos Bulosan
- Robinson Jeffers
- Alberto Ríos
- Tomas Rivera
- Muriel Rukeyser
- Upton Sinclair
- John Steinbeck
- Henry David Thoreau
- Helena Maria Viramontes
- Suggested
Author
Pairings
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: Upton Sinclair (1878-1968)

Making Link Sausages--Machines Stuff 10 Ft. per Second
[7110] H. C. White Company, Making Link Sausages--Machines Stuff 10 Ft. per Second (c. 1905), courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-50217].

Upton Sinclair Activities
This link leads to artifacts, teaching tips and discussion questions for this author.
Upton Sinclair was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and is best known for his 1906 muckraking novel, The Jungle. He received a degree from the College of the City of New York and did graduate work at Columbia University. Early on, he supported himself as a journalist and a writer. His serials for boys' weekly magazines, the Cliff Faraday stories and the Mark Mallory stories, were particularly lucrative. Sinclair's later writing emphasized socialist causes. By 1904 he was a regular reader of the Appeal to Reason, a populist-socialist newspaper. Though his works were celebrated in Russia, he opposed the communist regime there after the 1917 revolution.

Sinclair wrote over a hundred books. In addition to The Jungle, important works include King Coal (1917); Oil! (1927), about the corruption of southern California society; Boston (1928), about the Sacco-Vanzetti trial; and the Lanny Budd series, which includes World's End (1940), Between Two Worlds (1941), and Dragon's Teeth (1942). The Lanny Budd series offers a Marxist interpretation of the years between the two world wars. Sinclair is famous for his muckraking novels. Turn-of-the-twentieth-century writers and journalists who exposed scandals in politics and business through their writing were called "muckrakers." Muckrakers often had proletarian and socialist sympathies. Other writers associated with this movement include Jack London, David Graham Phillips, and Robert Herrick, along with Lincoln Steffens and Ida Tarbell.

Though Sinclair had to publish The Jungle himself after it was rejected by a number of publishers, it became his first popular literary success. The novel was inspired by journalistic investigations into the dirty and dangerous working conditions in the Chicago stockyards. Its protagonist, Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant, endures the exploitation of the Brown and Durham meatpacking company as he witnesses the rest of his family being victimized and destroyed. Sinclair intended his novel to cause public outrage for the immigrants who were forced to work for substandard pay in the intolerable conditions of the stockyards. While the novel had little effect on working conditions, it did incite public concern about poor food quality and impurities in processed meats, which resulted in the passage of federal food inspection legislation.



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