FICTION
The Jungle
Ten Speed Crown/. Jul. 2019. 384p. adapted by adapted by Kristina Gehrmann. pap. $24.99. ISBN 9781984856487.
COPY ISBN

Gr 9 Up–Gehrmann’s graphic novel adaptation of Sinclair’s muckraking classic offers a simplified, character-driven version of the original’s horrors. Yearning for a better life, a Lithuanian family arrives in Chicago’s meatpacking district via Ellis Island. As naive as they are industrious, the optimistic newcomers soon find themselves swindled and exploited at every turn. Between nonexistent labor protections, rampant disease, a predatory home-buying agreement, and myriad injustices large and small, their path to the American Dream leads directly through the moral and ethical grinder that is the stockyards and terminates with a call for socialist revolution. Light on text and dependent on dialogue, Gehrmann’s panels employ a limited palette. Her grayscale pen-and-ink illustrations, with occasional pops of red, burn and fade as characters triumph or suffer. This adaptation’s key shift is away from sociological realism and toward psychological storytelling: empathetic individuals now fill roles initially conceived for stock characters, while impromptu speeches have replaced third-person polemics and expositions. The novel isn’t so spotless as to seem sanitized, but much of its grit and gristle are scrubbed clean by the streamlined narrative. Key events from the source, including Ona’s death in childbirth, Antanas’s drowning, and Jurgis’s prodigal roaming and crime spree, are among the episodes lost on the cutting room floor.

VERDICT This solid introduction to Sinclair’s classic text is a humanizing supplement to the at-times tiresome original. Though this work substantially differs from its inspiration, the central message—anticapitalist, pro-socialist, and morally outraged

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