Rarely has a novel so completely captured America at a crossroads as has Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. It follows Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkus and his family through an epic journey from their impoverished homeland to America and the promised land of the Chicago stockyards. The promise of freedom and prosperity soon fades though as Jurgis and his family are trapped in a cycle of grinding poverty, sickness, and brutal working conditions.
Though beautifully written, the tone of the story is oppressive but that's pretty much the point. Jurgis is transformed from a proud, hard-working man to a broken, used-up shell. The stockyard factories take everything a worker has and then tosses them aside. Interspersed throughout the main storyline we also find whole chapters cataloging corruption and the horrific working conditions of the time; other chapters detail the gruesome and grossly unsanitary practices of the meat industry. The Jungle did lead to many important reforms in food safety laws and even eventually to the creation of the FDA. Sinclair had hoped his novel would serve as a call for labor reform and towards the end it does become a bit of a love letter to socialism. The Jungle did however highlight very real labor problems and Chicago would become a center for union activity and labor reform.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with Casey Affleck as narrator, yet he quickly won me over. He brings a very necessary everyman feel to the story, a much-needed human touch to the material that often takes you to very inhuman places. His reading of one of the pivotal scenes where a childbirth goes horribly wrong is one of the most utterly devastating, yet touching performances you will ever hear. Affleck brings an incredible depth and understanding as well as a welcome subtlety to much of the reading. In lesser hands this material could have been easily overplayed and maudlin. Affleck's buy-in and commitment to the characters and story are palpable.
Sometimes it's important to revisit our own history, and many of the issues addressed in The Jungle are important and fiercely debated topics again today. Lest we forget our past, The Jungle is here to remind us of a rather dark part of our history and some of the flaws and weaknesses in our own humanity. Cleo Creech
Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is a visceral and tragic story of immigrants trying to scratch out a living in the meatpacking plants of Chicago. The resulting public outcry led directly to the US government enacting changes in food and workplace safety practices still in place today.
With food production, business ethics, and immigration back in the news, Academy Award nominee Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone) taps into the emotion behind these issues to breathe life back into the struggling inhabitants of Packingtown. Affleck, a committed vegan and animal rights spokesman, delivers a moving performance that connects with the book’s enduring legacy.
The Jungle revolves around the life and family of Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant whose dreams of a better life are crushed by punishing work in gruesome stockyards and an unforgiving city. Brilliantly written and vividly described, it provides a poignant and incredibly detailed snapshot of a striking point in American history.
Listen to more Audible Signature Classics.
Public Domain (P)2010 Audible, Inc
This is a classic I always wanted to find the time to read. I jumped at the chance when I saw it featured on Audible. Unfortunately, it was difficult to appreciate Sinclair's timeless tale when narrated by Casey Affleck.
He had virtually no inflection and often sounded like he had a mouthful of saliva--the ending of words were difficult to discern in his coarse pronunciation.
I've listened to countless audio books over the years and there are so many good narrators out there practicing this craft, I fault the producers of this version for choosing an actor name over a quality reader.
Since the Lithuanian accent was so crucial to this story, why not use a narrator who has some understanding of this dialect?
Very disappointing recording.
This is truly a classic and a compelling tale, well worth reading. Unfortunately, The Jungle is ruined by Casey Affleck's sub-par narrating. Affleck's narration has a drawn-out, unrehearsed cadence of one who is reading a children's story to a particularly slow witted child.
Why is Casey Affleck narrating a book of this caliber in the first place ? He does not have a particularly good voice and like I said, his reading of The Jungle is underwhelming. I do not know what he is like as an actor, but he really disappoints here.
I would not rate this book as a waste of a credit -the story is engaging, it is just a bit of a disappointment with Affleck at the helm.
If Affleck was reading "Green Eggs and Ham" I am sure he would shine.
Somehow I never read this book in high school or even college. I can't believe what I missed! If you haven't read this book, you should. But while the text of the book is a truly powerful work, this audio version of The Jungle has been ruined by the narrator: Casey Affleck's reading was exceedingly uninspiring. (I believe another reviewer used the word "underwhelming" which is a very apt description!) Please find a paper copy or another audio version and save yourself a credit.
I was so excited to see this classic offered on Audible; however, that was short lived as I started listening to it. Mr. Affleck comes across as an old man in pain and makes it very difficult to listen. At least he does a great job with the wide variety of ethic names though.
I read science fiction and fantasy, but I also like literary fiction, the classics, the occasional mystery/thriller, and non-fiction.
With a hundred years of hindsight, we've learned so little.
Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is famous for disgusting America with its tales of meat packing workers falling into vats and rendered into lard, and all the things that went into sausages and tinned beef. (Cigar butts and poisoned rats not even being the most disgusting ingredients...) But as Sinclair said about his most famous book, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." The Jungle is not primarily about the problems of an unregulated meat industry. It's about the crushing brutality of capitalism, and the problems of unregulated accumulation of wealth. No wonder that Americans prefer the less political vegetarian version.
Although Sinclair was a muckraking socialist with an obvious agenda, The Jungle is still a compelling novel in its own right. Jurgis Rudkus is a Lithuanian immigrant who comes to America with his young wife Ona and his extended family of in-laws. Initially believing they have found the promised land of opportunity and plenty, they are quickly taken in by various schemes meant to impoverish, indebt, and enslave immigrants like them. At first only Jurgis has to work in Chicago's meatpacking district. He is young and strong and believes hard work will be rewarded, and those who warn him of how the meatpackers will use him up and dispose of him are lazy whiners. Of course, he soon discovers otherwise. The family undergoes one mishap after another, until within a year, even the children are reduced to selling newspapers on the street and still they are all barely staying alive.
Then things get worse, and worse, and worse. Jurgis is a modern-day Job, with no God to blame his troubles on, only capitalism. He has several ups and downs, but every time he catches a break, it's quickly followed by yet another brutal smackdown. Sinclair was trying to make the reader feel sorry for Jurgis and his poor family, all of whom end up dead, prostituted, or beggars by the end of the book, and you will. The poor man just cannot win, and if he makes mistakes and chooses the less noble path when given a choice, it's pretty hard to judge him if you've never been homeless on the streets of Chicago in the wintertime.
The Jungle is a grimly detailed look at early 20th century America. Sinclair was muckraking, so obviously he's showing the ugliest bits of America he can, but history proved that most of what he was alleging was true, even if his conclusions were questionable. Even if you are strongly anti-socialist, The Jungle is an eye-opening story, and still relevant after all these years. If you think that the horrors depicted in this book are relics of a previous era, just remember that to the extent that the very worst of these abuses are now curbed (somewhat) by government regulations, those government regulations are exactly what "free market" advocates hate and want to abolish.
4 stars. Knocking one star off because while Sinclair mostly kept his didacticism in check throughout the book, using gripping drama and only a little bit of exposition to arouse the horror he intended, the last chapter was nothing but socialist sermonizing, making it less a climax than the author climbing onto a soapbox to deliver his moral.
I have to ding this version for the unfortunate choice of narrator: I've enjoyed several of Audible's Signature Performances, but Casey Affleck's reading was monotonous and completely lacking in passion. His voice lacked distinction, and he sounded like a schoolboy reading a book aloud to the class. Not every celebrity actor makes a good audiobook narrator.
Great story, but much better read off a page then to listen to Casey Affleck. I could barely stand to listen to his whiney teenager sounding voice. Glad I got this on sale because it is still not worth what I paid. If another version is released it should be given for free to all who bought this one.
Ghost writer of over 100 unpublished works...;).
In short: The narration makes this book a "pass" to anyone except those with a real interest in the novel. Those just perusing, looking for a good read, might want to move along.
In detail: The Jungle tells the story of an immigrant trying to make his way in America during the turn of the 20th century. What follows a fable of how the power struggle between the US Railroad Trust and Meat Packing Trust took its toll on the goods manufactured and the workforce that manufactured the goods. Upton then makes the case for his solution.
Whether or not you or I agree with this solution, I think Upton does a fantastic job in outlining his concerns with completely unregulated capitalism (and specifically the lack of anti-trust laws).
If you're interested in the difficulties of immigrants in settling in America, fiscal policy or economic philosophy, this is a great novel for you. In the same vein as Atlas Shrugged (albeit from the exact opposite perspective and a historical instead of futuristic viewpoint), The Jungle is food for thought for those with an open mind and an interest in politics.
Likewise, if you are interested in a story about humanity at its best and worst, or if you're looking for a story about the struggle of human spirit against soul crushing odds, you can't go wrong with this pick.
However, if you're looking for a lighthearted or fanciful novel, you'd be better off looking elsewhere. The Jungle is bleak, depressing, and not for the faint of heart (or weak of stomach).
The narration was, at first, pretty bad. Like the reviewer Kosina before me, I am not sure whether he got better or I just got used to it, but there were still times where I found Mr. Affleck's stilted style difficult to endure. I truly hope this book gets a better treatment from another narrator.
A Viet Nam veteran, former steelworker, surveyor, draftsman, currently registered nurse. Popular and trendy are not necessarily great. Time weeds the path to the gardens of the classics.
This is the jungle that is my personal history being of slavic (Polish) extraction. My personal history is with the steel mills and coal mines nearby. In this story we see the struggle of the immigrants to an earlier America in another industry. If you do not realize that this is a historical retelling of the actual lives of people in America you missed a big part of American history. This is not fiction.
Here's a reality check. You know how Julian Assange leaked secret documents about the war in the middle east. You remember how the Watergate Scandal led to the resignation of Nixon as president. Well "the Jungle" was as big an expose' in it's time for telling the truth aobut the meat packing industry. This led to the current involvement of the Food and Drug Admin in our daily lives (yes thank you )... So you owe it to yourself to read the history of where we were back then and how greed is truly a deadly sin, and not just for the greedy.
A little less monotone.
Interesting percept, but contradictory reasoning.
The Jungle makes salient points about the unsanitary, precarious and corrupt nature of the beginnings of one of America’s industries in one of our most corrupt cities, Chicago. Contradicting itself, The Jungle provides examples of immigrants bringing that same industry to its knees by refusing conditions others seemed compelled to accept.
The Jungle also makes a good case for governmental regulation, while unintentionally providing many contradictory examples of regulatory corruption. The author’s solution? The endless dictatorial corruption of socialism.
Exploited, the main character turns to crime and participation in regulatory corruption, and fails to understand the opportunities provided him in the peace and sanity of rural America.
Anyone can drone on endlessly about the ugliness in any human or human endeavor. It takes a good writer to strike a balanced description of human frailty so the reader wants to turn the page. I got so I did not.
Report Inappropriate Content