In the Sun-Times, Roger K. Miller revisits The Jungle on its 100th anniversary:
Employees living and working in filth introduce diseases. The plant is a honeycomb of graft, jealousies and hatreds, where decency and honesty are nowhere to be found; “from top to bottom it was nothing but one gigantic lie.”
Sinclair skillfully throws a new ingredient into (or under) the pot now and then to keep it boiling, such as Ona’s being forced by her boss into prostitution. Horror follows upon horror, yet nothing seems unreal. The author, remember, has seen it all.
There are some memorable touches. In a scene at a Lake Shore Drive mansion, for instance, the insouciant scion (a stage drunk, admittedly) of a meatpacking magnate exposes the emptiness of his family’s existence. Another is Sinclair’s description of the well-oiled Chicago political machine â€” six decades on and he could be describing the administrations of the first Mayor Daley.
Perhaps the most poignant and revealing touch of all, however, is a moment when Jurgis, in utter despair, goes out as a tramp after the death of his wife and son. A farmer refuses to sell him food, and so Jurgis, once out of sight, vindictively pulls up a row of 100 newly planted peach trees: Decent, honest, hard-working Jurgis has learned his lesson well.