Study Guide

The Jungle Genre

By Upton Sinclair

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Coming of Age, Philosophical Literature, Realism

It may be a stretch to call The Jungle a coming-of-age novel because those usually star child protagonists. Still, we think it's appropriate here because the whole book is dedicated to Jurgis's transformation from childlike, naive peasant to mature, productive socialist. Speaking of socialism, since this is a book intended to convince you to become a socialist, it is clearly dedicated to the discussion of a particular way of thinking. This is why we are slotting The Jungle into philosophical literature as well.

Last but not least, there is realism. This is probably the trickiest genre of all because a lot of The Jungle is openly sentimental or far-fetched for emotional effect. (Come on – Stanislovas gets eaten by rats. That is not a realistic way to die, no matter how gross the stockyards are.) At the same time, Sinclair uses a more journalistic, realist tone to describe hygiene practices in the stockyards. These scenes of negligence and filth in food production are effective because they are so straightforward and realistic; the matter-of-fact language makes it hard to deny the truths turned up in Sinclair's seven-week investigation into Chicago's Packingtown.

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