VII TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What elements in the plot have caused critics to accuse The Jungle of being too melodramatic to be classified as good literature?
2. “Muckraking” is a term applied to investigative journalism intent on effecting social change, often to the point of abandoning any pretext at objective reporting. Why have some critics called The Jungle a muckraking novel?
3. Does Sinclair consider Jurgis moral or immoral? In Sinclair’s view is it sinful to become a thief or prostitute?
4. Most “naturalistic” fiction ends on a pessimistic note and suggests that man has little control over his environment. Is there any reason to think that Jurgis’s life will improve?
5. Do any of the characters in The Jungle seem to be unique individuals, or are they all simply two-dimensional figures whose experiences serve only to convey Sinclair’s political message?
VIII IDEAS FOR REPORTS AND PAPERS
1. Research the Socialist movement in America at the turn of the 20th century.
2. Along with French and Russian writers, Sinclair helped establish the tradition of naturalism. Research the characteristics of the “naturalistic novel” and analyze how The Jungle fits into the movement.
3. Read Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893) and compare it to The Jungle.
4. The meat-packing industry remains controversial today. Research some of the practices that people find unacceptable.
5. Research the Pure Food and Drug Act passed by Congress in 1906 and explain why it was necessary.