Relationship between Bachelder’s U.S! and Upton Sinclair
Bachelder’s US is a satirical novel that simultaneously praises and pokes fun at the life and beliefs of novelist and socialist Upton Sinclair. Sinclair, famous for his novel The Jungle about the meatpacking industry in the early 20th century wrote hundreds of political novels aimed at creating social change. As a political writer, Sinclair’s writing is melodramatic by nature. In The Jungle, his grotesque depiction of the meatpacking industry in the 20th century was intended to elicit an emotional response from readers that would lead them to want change. His writings were provocative in so far as they argued a clear side and attempted to convince readers that the opinion argued was the best option.
In US, Bachelder uses melodrama in a less clear cut way as he choses to show both sides by allowing readers to see the opinion of those who oppose Sinclair and those who show immediate support. Yet this melodramatic rhetoric that involves the assassination of Sinclair is used to contribute to the debate of whether or not writers are politically relevant. The fact that Sinclair must be assassinated so that his ideas do not permeate melodramatically pays tribute to his writings.
Bachelder’s novel resurrects and kills Sinclair in a fashion that is almost comical. In the novel, there becomes a clear distinction between the types of people who support Sinclair and those who oppose and later kill him. This melodramatic rhetoric that involves the cyclic revival and killing of Sinclair is used to create an idea of hope and despair. Bachelder stated in an interview that he chose Sinclair as a sort of “hero” because he felt that Sinclair embodied an indistinguishable hope for political change, “But it’s not artful in the way we think about artfulness when you study literature and read literature. He was a ferocious, and absolutely indefatigable figure. Everybody hated him, everybody tried to mow him down, and he got up every day and he wrote and wrote and wrote. He cranked out these books, and his hope never diminished—his hope for a better society” (Bachelder). Although Sinclair’s writing was not the best, the fact that he churned out hundreds of political novels expressed his desire to reconcile politics and creative writing.
In a way, this is the same goal that Bachelder is attempting to reach in his novel. Although there is no clear political agenda in the novel as in The Jungle, Sinclair’s resurrections and “scars” are symbolic of the social traumas that led up to the time when Bachelder wrote US. Underneath the jokes and the insults, Bachelder is resurrecting Sinclair for a purpose. Sinclair represented a hope and a drive for political change in the eyes of Bachelder. Bachelder uses Sinclair as a figurehead to allow readers a glimpse into what he believes are the political issues of the day and to argue that writing, as a political tool, is insignificant but necessary.