"The Inferno of Packingtown Revealed" - Review of "The Jungle" - The Arena

"The Inferno of Packingtown Revealed" - Review of "The Jungle" - The Arena

A Book-Study

by: | publication date: June 1, 1906 | Publication: The Arena | volume: 35 | journal issue: 199 | pages: 651-659

The Jungle is worthy of a place by the side of Frank Norris' greatest work, The Odojna. These two works have more of historic truth than many histories and they are marked by that high order of genius that compels the reader to see and feel all that man can see and feel under tragic conditions similar to those described. They are, we think, the greatest realistic romances that America has given to the world. There are many realistic writers, but for the most part they succeed only in reproducing the details of common, every-day life without revealing the soul of the picture they would portray. They are superficial observers and write superficially. They are imitators and theft works are dull and unprofitable. But let the man of transcendent
imagination describe a scene and we see and feel what he sees and feels. We pass behind the mask or the superficial aspects and see the interior workings of life. The soul of the picture is revealed. He sees all that is to be seen; he feels what the actors in the scene feel; he shares the boundless hopes, the lofty aspirations, the nameless fear and the measureless despair of those that move to and fro in the play. When he depicts a section of life he becomes in the highest sense the historian of what he describes. It is this element of imagination that differentiates the genius from the hack writer; the poet from the versifier. It is this element of imagination also that invests a great painting with life, atmosphere, soul, that the camera can never catch, hold or reflect.

An extensive and very positive review of Upton Sinclair's novel "The Jungle" by the editors of The Arena.

Public domain.