London, Jack. (1876 - 1916).
L i f e
- an illegitimate child, took the name of his stepfather
- received little formal education, quit school at the age of 14
- underwent a period of heavy drinking, daring adventures, and odd jobs: an oyster pirate, cannery worker, and seaman
- a father figure for ‘on the road characters’ = the ‘vags’, or hoboes
- embraced socialism and tramped halfway across the country with a group of unemployed staging a protest march on Washington
- prospected gold in the Klondike > gained material for his writing
- enjoyed a popular and financial success x but: his strenuous life, failing health, and shrinking fortune resulted in his committing suicide
W o r k
< influenced by Charles Darwin: admired ruthless fight, power, strength, and adaptation x but: sympathised with the underdog
< Karl Marx: embraced the ideas of utopian socialism x but: believed in an individual and racial superiority
< Friedrich Nietzsche: worshipped the superman
< Romanticism: preoccupied with nature, individualism, and titanism
- a lifelong tension between the Marxian desire for social justice x the Darwinian belief in the survival of the powerful
- a natural storyteller, narrative energiser, powerful reviver of ancient myth
The Son of Wolf (1900):
- a collection of short stories
“The Law of Life”:
- the tribal patriarch’s death: an illustration of the law of life and examination of the psychological state of a dying individual
“To Build a Fire”:
- a plight of an individual x wilderness: extremely reduced states of consciousness to reveal the ecstasy lying beyond the summit of life
People of the Abyss (1903):
- a novel based on his journalistic stay in London slums to gather material for a book on hoboism
- an indictment of capitalism and the class system x an embrace of socialism
The Sea-Wolf (1904):
- a ruthless and amoral captain = a physically rough and psychologically independent superman of body and soul (<=> Herman Melville’s captain Ahab)
The Call of the Wild (1903):
- a best-selling attempt to enter the consciousness of a dog
White Fang (1906):
Martin Eden (1909):
- largely autobiographical, a central document for the London scholar
John Barleycorn (1913)
(London in 1900. Source: Wikimedia Commons).
AuthorJack London. (1876 - 1916). American.
WorkNovelist. Short story writer. Author of Martin Eden (1909).
Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.
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Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.
Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.
McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.
Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.
Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.
"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time".