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London, Jack. "When God Laughs".

Summary

"The gods, the gods are stronger; time

Falls down before them, all men's knees

Bow, all men's prayers and sorrows climb

Like incense toward them; yea, for these

Are gods, Felise."

The first person narrator visits Monte Carquinez. Carquinez is a man who gives an appearance as if he were a compound of ancient barbaric races. He is an artist, blasphemously intimate with God, and becoming really himself only after some consummation of wine. The narrator gives Carquinez some California wine of his own country to enable him to gain himself. This happens and Carquinez starts to talk.

Carquinez observes that the narrator has not escaped satiety. He has only made terms with the enemy and run away from life by confessing he is tired of the city and retiring to the country. All the generations have tried to escape satiety but they are determined to fail. The Gods know and they always win. The world sees only the face of the things. Carquinez gives an example: there lived a virtuous and loveable married couple, and when the man died, the woman closed herself in a convent. The narrator thinks she is a winner because she loved her husband so. Carquinez observes she is a loser because she fled from the life as the narrator did.

Carquinez learned this couple's story from the woman's diary. Their problem with satiety was that they loved Love. The couple drew the concept of their philosophy out of a poem. Their the way of preserving the Love was "to yearn for you and never to have you" so as to keep the Love fresh. Everything is good as long as it is unpossessed. When the possession comes, the satiety comes hand in hand. They have never even kissed each other, the Time passed and their Love remained. Love which was envied them and wondered about. They were called "wonderful lovers".

Carquinez observes that they were laughing at the Gods, thinking they would win. In fact they were determined to lose. For a while they were gods themselves. But one morning they looked in each other's eyes and found that the desire was dead. The desire had died in the night without them even noticing its leaving. Soon after the man died.

The narrator wonders at the great irony of their never once kissing and still being deprived of their love. The narrator recognizes that they were losers and so is himself and his friend. Sometimes a mortal is seemingly winning, but it is all only "little pleasantry of the gods".

 

Analysis

- a short story based on dialogue

- not outward action, but inward tensions are presented

- the core of the story is presented by the intermediate narrator Carquinez

- theme: the helplessness of a mortal in the face of gods

- naturalistic ideas of determination: a man's plight is determined to failure

Basics

  • Author

    London, Jack. (1876 - 1916).
  • Full Title

    "When God Laughs".
  • First Published

    In: The Smart Set Magazine. 1907.
  • Form

    Short story.

Works Cited

London, Jack. "When God Laughs". (1907). When God Laughs and Other Stories. (1911). Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1912.

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