"You don't have to be satisfied with America as you find it. You can change it. I didn't like the way I found America some sixty years ago, and I've been trying to change it ever since"
Upton Sinclair’s most well known novel was The Jungle; however, he had many other pieces of literature that addressed problems in American society. Though Sinclair intended to address the struggles of the working class in many of his novels, including The Jungle , he attacked many other parts of American society. This included the education system, American journalism, and the ruthlessness of the wealthy elite of America. Sinclair did not fear, or hesitate, to reveal the unseen, and ugly, truths to the general public.
The Brass Check
Sinclair’s other notable work that gained national attention was The Brass Check. Sinclair deemed this “the most important and most dangerous [he] ha[d] ever written”. In the novel, he addresses the flaws with muckraking journalism and the associated press. Sinclair ordered multiple publications of the book and did not copyright the book to ensure the maximum amount of people could read its contents. The literary reception of The Brass Check was horrendous. Many newspapers and critics refused to run paid advertisements in their papers. However, the government’s reception of the novel was much more positive. In fact, it adapted some of Sinclair’s recommendations into the first code of ethics for journalism that they established in 1923. Also, a report of the book was filed in the FBI, with a memorandum attached noting that the current directing manager of the Associated Press was to always have a copy of the book.
Much of Sinclair’s other works were successful during his time, meaning many copies were sold. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1943 for Dragon’s Teeth, a part of the Lanny Budd series , but this was during the time period when Sinclair transferred from progressive novels to historical texts. None of Sinclair’s other texts transgressed generations like The Jungle and The Brass Check did, with the exception of Oil! (which is the basis of the movie There Will be Blood ). The primary intention of a bulk of Sinclair’s early literature was to highlight the horrendous working conditions of lower class Americans.
“They were trying to save their souls- and who but a fool could fail to see that all that was the matter with their souls was that they had not been able to get a decent existence of their bodies?” -The Jungle
His main focus of The Jungle was to raise awareness about working conditions, not of the mal-practice of the food industry. Likewise, in King Coal and Oil!, Sinclair highlights the mistreatment of the working class. Though these books were received well by the general public, they did not sway public opinion like The Jungle did. This could be because unions did not become a huge issue until post-World War II. Sinclair, a socialite, was ahead of his time in that he cared about the treatment of the working class when industries still had a strangle hold over them. After the Second World War, unions in various fields gained power and received the attention of the government . Though his writings were relatable during the 1910s and 1920s, they did not have the same impact that they would have had if they were published 20 years later. Sinclair was a very popular during his life, but only a few of his works remain in modern day society. In fact, many of his later novels stopped being published within five years its initial publication.