“I hit him, sir,” said Jurgis. …
“You tried to choke him?”
“Yes, sir, your Honor.”
“Ever been arrested before?”
“No, sir, your Honor.”
“What have you to say for yourself?”from The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
I’ve read The Jungle and it was horrific.
My empathy goes up to 11 and I internalise what I’m reading at dangerous levels.
I have read two of Kafka’s books, The Metamorphosis and The Castle, and both times I felt very much like checking into a mental health inpatient facility after shutting the book. I mean, The Castle doesn’t even really end because Kafka didn’t finish the book. Publishers should print a warning at the beginning that “there will be absolutely no resolution to anything you’re about to read, so maybe don’t read this.”
The Bell Jar devoured my brain in such a way that I know I’ve read it but cannot remember anything beyond the depression-flavoured hopelessness.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time had my brain thinking in ways so similar to the narrator that it took a few weeks for me to feel like myself again.
And I suspect that if I had read Girl, Interrupted before seeing the film I would never have been able to watch the movie.
But The Jungle’s reverberations collapsed something external, rather than internal, in my perception of the world. The Jungle showed me that the cruelties of medieval feudalism have only been updated and rebranded for new generations. It should be required reading in the US school curriculum; I should have read this instead of the pro-war, pre-MAGA crap that made up my 11th grade reading syllabus.
We all should have read The Jungle about 20 years ago, but I do not recommend reading it now.
Late-stage capitalism is so brutal that even a global pandemic cannot stop its insatiable appetite for violence. The time for reading The Jungle and learning from its story is, sadly, way over.
This is part of the Writer’s Digest A Year of Writing Prompts