The Jungle on the waterfront
Like Upton Sinclair, Poole is not a true proletarian author because he came from a wealthy upbringing. He writes from the perspective of a sympathetic outsider advocating for labor reform. Bill is an educated author of means, much like Poole himself. In his great American novel of labor, The Jungle, Sinclair tells his story from the point of view of the downtrodden laborers themselves. Poole, on the other hand, lets middle-class readers identify with Bill before easing them into the working-class milieu of squalor and strikes. Bill’s friend Joe Kramer, a muckraking journalist and labor organizer, serves as the Virgil to Bill’s Dante, guiding him into the inferno. Of the two approaches, Sinclair’s succeeds more effectively by creating a more vivid and visceral experience for the reader. In The Harbor, Poole beats around the bush too much. Only the last quarter of the book is really devoted to labor unrest and the class struggle. The first half of the book calls to mind a watered-down version of Jack London’s novel Martin Eden, as Bill struggles to make his way as a writer while romancing a woman from a higher social class.
Stylistically, Poole’s writing is a touch too flowery to evoke the grittier aspects of urban social realism. His prose sometimes reads more like proto-beatnik poetry than muckraking naturalism, particularly the way “the Harbor” is constantly personified as if it were a human entity. When Poole does get around to writing scenes of abysmal working conditions, capitalist corruption, and strike violence, they really are quite powerful. One just wishes there had been more them.
If you liked this review, please follow the link below to Amazon.com and give me a “helpful” vote. Thank you.