Upton Sinclair : socialist prophet without honour [article]

Gerard R. Davidson, University Of Canterbury
In the last ten years literary historians and critics have begun to reevaluate the career of Upton Sinclair. It had always been prevalent to dismiss him as a pamphleteer, a muckraker and a writer of socialist doggrel. A superficial examination of his 90 year lifetime would tend to support this contention. However if it is possible to separate the writer from the politician, the socialist from the agitator, then a clearer and more accurate picture emerges. Upton Sinclair wrote over a hundred
more » ... ished novels, produced thousands of magazine articles, broadsheets, letters and a multitude of correspondence. He redefined the proletarian novel and accurately captured within his work the sense of the radical experience in the United States during the twentieth century. This thesis attempts to analyze Sinclair's position within this radical experience. It is not concerned with his literary contribution but more with his role as a socialist and the way in which the attitude of American socialist movement changed towards him. In the period 1900-1934 this attitude changed dramatically. The effect of this change was to leave Sinclair in its wake. He suffered from the unfortunate handicap of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the earlier stages of his career he was stigmatized as a radical and considered dangerous by the more conservative elements of society. By the time the mainstream of literary and political thought had shifted leftwards Sinclair was considered too conservative. With the publication of his most famous novel, The Jungle (1906) Sinclair became the novelist of the American scene and the recorder of the great industrial movements. This was to be the role he would play for the rest of his career. The other motivating force in his life was his role as a socialist. As Granville Hicks has observed Sinclair was not deflected by any divisions of interests; what interested him as a socialist interested him as a novelist. His own brand of socialism is his most constant theme in his writing. Sinclair was co [...]
doi:10.26021/4198 fatcat:ixxx6dz7aba7fbmxauhb3qob6m