Muckrakers: Muckraker and Best-known Muckraking Novel

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Muckrakers were early twentieth-century reformers whose 1

mission was to look for and uncover political and business corruption.

The term muckraker, which referred to the "man with a muckrake"

in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, was first used in a pejorative

sense by Theodore Roosevelt, whose opinion of the muckrakers was

that they were biased and overreacting. The movement began about

1902 and died down by 1917. Despite its brief duration, however, it

had a significant impact on the political, commercial, and even literary

climate of the period. 2

Many popular magazines featured articles whose purpose was 3

to expose corruption. Some of these muckraking periodicals included

The Arena, Everybody's, The Independent, and McClure's. Lincoln

Steffens, managing editor of McClure's (and later associate editor of

American Magazine and Everybody's), was an important leader of

the muckraking movement. Some of his exposés were collected in his

1904 book The Shame of the Cities and in two other volumes, and

his 1931 autobiography also discusses the corruption he uncovered

and the development of the muckraking movement. Ida Tarbell,

another noted muckraker, wrote a number of articles for McClure's,

some of which were gathered in her 1904 book The History of the

Standard Oil Company.

Muckraking appeared in fiction as well. David Graham Phillips,4

who began his career as a newspaperman, went on to write

muckraking magazine articles and eventually novels about

contemporary economic, political, and social problems such as

insurance scandals, state and municipal corruption, shady Wall Street

dealings, slum life, and women's emancipation.

Perhaps the best-known muckraking novel was Upton Sinclair's 5

The Jungle, the 1906 exposé of the Chicago meatpacking industry.

The novel focuses on an immigrant family and sympathetically and...
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