Directions: Use the themes, questions and video clips below to teach and learn with portions of C-SPAN's American Writers program featuring Upton Sinclair and The Jungle. Link to the complete video clip list to identify clip descriptions and create your own lessons. Each theme contains questions and video clips appropriate for varying grade levels.
Lesson Credit: Curriculum Advisory Team Member, Axel Ramirez.
1. What was the industrial revolution? What were some of its effects? For example, how did the refrigerated car change the cattle/slaughterhouse industry? Why were many of the railroads eventually replaced by trucks?
2. What functions did unions serve for the average worker?
3. Why did industrialization lead to Utopian movements? Why was socialism so active in industrial centers?
4. Why did child labor become accepted within the industry? What were the effects of child labor?
5. How did industrialization and progressivism co-exist? What role did writers like Sinclair play?
1. From what countries did the immigrants of this time period come? What kind of issues did the new immigrants bring up in terms of religion?
2. Why was the stockyard a popular place for immigrants to find work? How did the fact that many of the workers were immigrants impact the working conditions in the yards?
3. Compare and contrast the early 20th and 21st centuries in terms of life for immigrants within the U.S. and within the meatpacking industry.
4. Why did the immigrants live in separate ethnic enclaves? What major event brought an end to most of the segregation within the ethnic communities? What other changes may have followed?
5. How does The Jungle help to illuminate the real lives of immigrants? What parts of history may be missing from The Jungle?
1. What were muckrackers? What were their objectives? Why do some journalists view the term "muckracker" to be a compliment?
2. What advances in communication allowed for a national media in the early 20th century? What effect could a national (or even international) media have that a regional media could not?
3. Why did Sinclair choose to write his book in a fictional format? How did Sinclair's work lead to industry films? Discuss how the medium can also affect the message.
4. Discuss the concept of "information as power" in light of Sinclair's life and work. What other elements lent Sinclair power?
5. Who was the intended audience of The Jungle? Was Sinclair's original intent for the book realized?
6. How did The Jungle lead to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act? How does The Jungle still impact us today?