Jack London born on January 12, 1876 in San Francisco and is considered as one of the most prolific novelist and short story writer America has even seen. His work critically portrayed Romanticism in regards to the nature and because of this he is considered as the revolutionary author in the Green Movement (London, 27). Ideologically his views about whites being superiors and theories of Social Darwinisim made him an ultra conservative. He was first of the American authors who made money by writing for commercial magazine.
The early life of Jack was very devastating as for certain period of time he didn’t know who was his father. In fact the records that burnt in 1906 San Francisco fire made it impossible to exactly know what father’s name he had on his birth certificate. His mother Flora Wellman got pregnant and wanted to give birth but his father William Henry Chaney was more reluctant towards abortion, which she didn’t agreed with making them to separate. After his birth his mother got married to a Civil War veteran who had failed in various perspectives of life, John London. However, Jack took his surname and identified himself as his son (Raskin, 32).
London was self educated as he left his school when he was 10 and implied on studying books from the library. He often visited Oakland public in 1886 where his family moved in 1885. His family was a working class and to keep the cycle running he started to work 12 to 18 hours daily at Hickmott’s Cannery (London, 56). He soon became exhausted with these laboring efforts and started to look for some better opportunities. In doing so he bought a sloop Razzle Dazzle and starting oyster pirating. During his advent he also claimed in his autobiographical book John Barleycorn that he stole French Frank from Mistress Mamie. However, his sloop soon got damaged beyond repair and he had to shift towards the right side of the law by entering into the California Fish Petrol. In 1893 he signed up with schooner and went on the sail towards the coast of Japan. After the end of his expedition he came back to Oakland and started to find another job (Raskin, 21). The period of 1893 was under immense economic panic and the unemployment crisis was apparent and procurement of job seemed difficult. But he soon found job in jute mill which was very laboring and required him to work for more than 12 hours. After this he worked for the street railway power plant some time. The poor touch of his life was not completing for him and he always tried to get into thoughts of becoming rich. After working in the power plant he joined the Kelly’s army and started another career as a tramp. He then went to Eire County for work as well but led a vagrancy life there for nearly a month where he had no place to live and no work to do. His life seemed to be greatly hardened by the events of Eire County as well where the life was pretty difficult for someone like him who had no qualifications and no experience of any kind. He also wrote this period in his book The Road the indispensible living conditions in the area and how people were unable to find any work.
His life was beginning to take a toll on him because of his unsuccessful endeavors of life as a sailor, plant worker and as a tramp and one thing that was always making its part on his mind of the high school education or any trade skill that he would have learnt over time to secure his future. In 1894 he returned to high school as he entered Oakland High School. His love and techniques in writing were greatly admired and soon he started to publish his work in the college magazine, The Aegis (Callan, 54). Most of the work he published was based on the real events of his life as his first story that was published in Aegis was, “Typhoon of the coast of Japan”. However, there are many historians who believe that he didn’t get anything published for the high school magazine. After getting through the high school, he started to dream of University of California, Berkeley for more education and he finally entered in 1896 but due to financial incompetence, he soon left the university in 1897.
The social life of Jack was pretty good however, with friends all around him because of the working he did. One of them was Bessie Maddern with whom he married in 1990. His main emphasis of life so far was to have a good wife who can be a good mother and can born healthy children (Raskin, 76). In fact by arranging marriage to Bessie he made her clear that he doesn’t love her but because she is very near to him, he feels that they can both become good parents. Bessie was also a writer and emphasize on the romanticism whereas Jack emphasized on the scientific view of marriage in the light of Darwinism. After giving birth to two children, difference came between them because of Bessie more indulged in the children and Jack having fun time with prostitutes. Bessie didn’t want to sleep with her because she thought he would be carrying sexually transmitted diseases. They got divorced in late 1994. He soon married Charmian Kittredge to whom he met from his publisher friend at Macmillan Publisher. This time the marriage was based on purely love because in Charmian he saw a well developed woman who was very beautiful. Charmian was also very loyal to him and they both lived their life very happily (Nelson, 66). Charmian gave birth to a child but he soon died and later on another pregnancy was miscarriage and they never plan to give birth again.
Up till now, Jack had established himself as a successful writer as his stories were published in many magazines. He was one of the first authors who exclusively wrote for the money. He soon bought a ranch in 1905 which has an area of 1000 acres. According to him this ranch was second only to his wife. After buying the ranch, his most emphasis was on to getting it bigger and beautiful. He also built a mansion in his ranch which covered an area of 15000 sq. ft but before he could reside in it, it was burnt from fire. He also visited many places with his second wife. His expedition to Hawaii was the cornerstone of the later part of his writing (Day, 235).
His stories that had distinctive approach and meaning were becoming wholesome and less impressive. The reason for this was his love for the money. Previously he only wrote because he loved writing and analyzing things differently by portraying his life experiences but now he was more into money than anything. Because of his lacking in love to write was diminishing he was actively getting criticisms from critics. However he continued to write books till he died.
Jack was very influential in the short stories. Historian Dale Walker wrote that, “London’s true m?tier was the short story …. London’s true genius lay in the short form, 7,500 words and under, where the flood of images in his teeming brain and the innate power of his narrative gift were at once constrained and freed” (Nelson, 242). His book “Call of the Wild” was earliest of his work where he focused on the violent factors of the society. The book revolves around a protagonist which was a dog where Jack showed the thin line between the nature’s harshness and the violent crimes that have impacted the human societies. In this story he focused on the people who in the search of fame and fortune have become greedy. As all of the stories were based on his life events, he therefore portrayed the stories in a way he looked at them. In another story, “To Build a Fire”, tried to emphasize on the role the man plays in the society. The unnamed man in his story describes the crucial part of the world where man has to shift his beliefs and principles according to the requirement of the situation. Man in the story has to produce fire, has to hunt animals and various other means for his survival. This story came out in two parts, first in The Youth Companion magazine in 1902, where it got little success and later a better version of the same story was published in The Century Magazine in 1908 (Nelson, 133). These both stories portray the facts about Jack and his maturation as a writer who had refined his skills from time to time and produced a same story with important aspects publishing in second part.
The important part of Jack’s writing was his ability to perceive information from events and then writing them with different characters and situations. Theme, however, was the main aspect of his writing that he wanted to imply. His life was full of struggle and filled with poverty. His various experiences in different parts of the world were very enough to describe the nature of the experiences. The panic situation of 1893 and the fire in San Francisco, all were present in his mind and time from time he used his writing abilities to portray the life and struggle of the people. In another story, “Law of Life”, Jack tried to emphasize on the difficulties of life of an American Indian who has been abandoned by his tribe and has been left to die (Stasz, 215). The story is filled with emotional impacts throughout where the behaviors of his own people had distinguished himself and he had no place to go. The story then tries to focus on how this Indian tribesman started to believe in himself and set upon the journey towards self discovery and success. In story, “To the Man on Trial”, Jack tried to impact on the societal and moral values of the individuals living in the society and how law shapes their lives and how these people go against the law if they have committed a crime (Pizer, 43). The story obliged the current events of the California at that time where the racial segregation was at high and people were denied of their right to live freely. He, however, didn’t differentiate between races, rather focused on the current social conditions that critically were shaping the lives of the people living there.
Jack was a boxing fan and he used to watch matches by physically going to the rings. His story, “A Piece of Steak” was based on an inspiration which he gained from a boxing match and looks at two different boxing characters where one of them was old and the other was young. Though, fight took place and one of them won, but Jack’s emphasis this time was on the social aspects of the society and the division of the people who have different moral values (Kershaw, 194). The story looks at the behaviors of the people towards old and young boxer and he critically depicted that this society hasn’t anything pure about itself. The people not only run after fortune but they also run after those who have fame and because of this moral flaw the society has grown into something evil where the social laws are designed by the individual himself (Hamilton, 89).
Apart from stories, Jack wrote many novels as well. His popular novels are The Sea Wolf, The Iron Heel, White Fang, The Call of the Wild and Martin Eden (Noel, 121). All his novels were based on the moral and thematic values that were apparent in the American society at that times and because he had been a victim of all this, he therefore wrote everything is a critical and descriptive manner so that the reader could understand the backstage effects and how he can evaluate an easy moral theme out of it. George Platt, the publisher of Macmillan Publishing was highly amazed by the work of Jack and he wrote a letter in 1901 stating, “he believed Jack’s fiction represented ‘the very best kind of work’ done in America (Hamilton, 187).
Jack’s career was not without controversies and accusations. He was repeatedly accused of plagiarizing. In fact Jack also stated that he has used the work of others as a guidance and inspiration but has never plagiarized. His work “Call of the Wild” has been claimed to be taken from “My Dogs in the Northland” written by Egerton Young (Stasz, 87). Even in July 1901, same newspaper article was observed by two different authors and they produced same level of approach and motives, one was by London and other was by Frank Norris. The reason of this coherence hasn’t still solved. It has been also claimed that he used to buy articles from another writer Sinclair Lewis and then shaped the stories as he required. Another incident of the plagiarism was observed in his novel “The Iron Heel” where one whole chapter was same with regards to another book (Pizer, 98). Jack also found some criticism towards his work that has been lengthy. He was considered a genius for stories that were around 7500 words but beyond that he used to lack the flow and idea of the stories (Kershaw, 67). Many critics pointed this out stating that his abilities lie only in successful interpretations and expressiveness in short stories where he can distinctively portray what he wanted to say and how he wanted the reader to observe what is happening in the story. On the basis of this fact, he started to write shorter versions of stories.
Jack’s point of view was socialist, though not a practical one he tried to emphasized same socialist view into his stories like “The Iron Heel”. Jack had a concerned view about the Asian immigrants but on the reality basis his stories were empathetic towards the Mexicans who he believed are living a life far beyond their standards and because of the segregations they are lacking behind in all the fields.
Jack had a memorable life as he achieved great fame in no time. His work gained conviction in nearly all aspects of the societal moral and values. In the later part of his life he started to have pain in the kidneys and it is believed that this was the reason for his death. He died in 1916.