Throughout most of the nineteenth century, the United States experienced phenomenal growth and change to become a powerful nation and influence in the first world region. Physically, the United States continued to expand with the belief that created an obligation to spread and acquire land all the way to the Pacific Coast by almost any means necessary. Economically, new inventions and strategies helped to improve farming methods and with the completion of a continental railroad in 1869, markets on the East Coast were soon be able to obtain products from almost all across the nation. Despite major conflicts, such as the Civil War, the United States still kept its perception as an equal and prosperous nation, which attracted many immigrants that were seeking freedom and opportunity from the hardships faced in their own countries. It was an American dream that attracted people to the United States--the chance of free enterprise, equal opportunity, and freedom to strive for every accomplishment. The dream was for the most part a realistic nightmare during the industrial era around the last half of the nineteenth century. It became known as "The Gilded Age" when most of the American minorities and impoverished were ruled by capitalist pigs that exploited most of the working-class to later justify their actions through Social Darwinism or the major influence they had on the economy. Although the United States is perceived as the home of free enterprise, prosperity and equal opportunity, American fiction following 1865, such as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, was generally critical of America's business behavior and values.
The Jungle illustrates the unsafe and disgusting conditions in the meat packing plants in which the workers and animals had to live and die. However, the main purpose was to move the reader on the path to socialism, something in which Sinclair truly believed. Although The Jungle was not recognized for this, the character