Naturalism and Muckraking in Lincoln Steffens’ “Chicago: Half Free and Fighting On”, Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”, and William Hard’s “Making Steel and Killing Men” in Chicago during the Progressive Era

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This thesis deals with positive and negative muckraking texts about Chicago in the Progressive Era through the use of three case studies. In these three case studies these texts will be analyzed through a naturalistic perspective. This thesis aims to examine muckraking texts by connecting them to the elements of muckraking and naturalism. The first case study involves Lincoln Steffens’ Chicago: Half Free and Fighting On, the second case study Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and the third case study William Hard’s Making Steel and Killing Men. This thesis supports the claim that the three muckraking texts Chicago: Half-Free and Fighting On, The Jungle, and Making Steel and Killing Men attributed to the social and political change, through the appeal of the public, because of the use of popular elements of muckraking and naturalistic texts. This thesis aims to provide an understanding of muckraking, how it came into existence as well as its effects on the city of Chicago. In the case studies, each of the three muckraking texts are put into dialogue with the three elements, named in Cecelia Tichi’s book Exposés and Excess: Muckraking in America, 1900/2000, and the elements of naturalism, named in Donald Pizer’s book, The Theory and Practice of American Literary Naturalism. The case study on Steffens’ text differs from the other two case studies, as the main impression of the text is not sheer ‘muck being raked.’ Instead of presenting the reader the corruptness of the city, Chicago: Half Free and Fighting On shows that, even though the city still needs to reform, there has already been a considerable amount of reform, even if the Chicagoans themselves do not realize this. This type of positive muckraking was different from ‘normal muckraking,’ yet just as inspiring to the people. Keywords: Progressive Era, Chicago, Muckraking, Lincoln Steffens, William Hard, Upton Sinclair, Naturalism.
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