Thesis: Instant He Knew, He Ceased

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[. . .] When he was born his mother was unmarried and it has never been clear who his father was though there has been speculation that it may have been William Chaney who was an attorney and a journalist in the area. This is an extremely important aspect of the author's life in regards to the later masterpiece called Martin Eden. London was born in an era where having unmarried parents carried a stigma. It caused society to frown on the child and the child grew up knowing that he or she was viewed as substandard because the parents of the child were not married. The child grew up feeling left out of many things in society. As the reader gets into the Martin Eden story it becomes evident that the protagonist feels second class. It becomes obvious that he does not feel he is equal to those like Ruth and her family.

This may be an extension of the way London felt in real life. He was illegitimate during a time when it was not acceptable to be illegitimate. The story of Martin Eden underscores the shame and uncertainty of being illegitimate at that time.

While he was illegitimate his father was a brilliant many. Chaney was one of the leading developers in America about astronomy. When Jack was born his real name was John Griffith London and his mother was very unhealthy. He was raised instead by a former slave called Virginia Prentiss.

Late in 1876, Flora married John London, a partially disabled Civil War veteran. The family moved around the Bay area before settling in Oakland, where Jack completed grade school. Though the family was working class, it was not so impoverished as London's later accounts claimed."

This too is an important fact to understand when it came to the life of London. The way he remembered and perceived his life to be for his youth is the reflection of the way he felt about himself most likely. He viewed himself as substandard after enduring the knowledge that he was not legitimate and his mother had so many health problems that he had to be raised by a former slave, during a time when former slaves were still treated no better than animals. All of these factors of his early years may have played a part in who he saw himself to be in relation to the rest of the world.

After working many odd jobs London figured out that he was destined to become a factory worker or laborer if he did not come up with a better way to make a living. The read constantly and had since he was a boy therefore he made a purposeful choice to become a writer. He was not like other writers who have been said to have a burning need to write whether or not they would ever be paid for their efforts. He was a man who had grown up in a working class family, with shaky beginnings who knew he was destined to a life of blue collar jobs unless he found a different path. He chose writing because he loved to read so much and believed it would be easy for him to adapt to as a career.

This is another area of the book Martin Eden where the author uses his own life to develop the main character.

He studied other writers and began to submit stories, jokes, and poems to various publications, mostly without success. Spending the winter of 1897 in the Yukon provided the metaphorical gold for his first stories, which he began publishing in the Overland Monthly in 1899. From that point he was a highly disciplined writer, who would produce over fifty volumes of stories, novels, and political essays. Although The Call of the Wild (1903) brought him lasting fame, many of his short stories deserve to be called classics, as does his critique of capitalism and poverty in The People of the Abyss (1903), and his stark discussion of alcoholism in John Barleycorn (1913). London's long voyage (1907-09) across the Pacific in a small boat provided material for books and stories about Polynesian and Melanesian cultures. He was instrumental in breaking the taboo over leprosy and popularizing Hawaii as a tourist spot."

Among the things that London supported in his life were socialism, women's suffrage and prohibition. One of the most important things that London supported was the theory by Nietzsche involving religion.

His socialism was fervent, but countered by his strong drive toward individualism and capitalist success. These contradictory themes in his life and writing make him a difficult figure to reduce to simple terms."

The contradiction becomes evident throughout Martin Eden because the protagonist reaches for success financially in a capitalist world while learning about the hypocrisy of elite society. He ultimately becomes so disillusioned that he commits suicide. This two pronged belief system that he developed can be explained because of the insecurity he felt about his humble beginnings. It caused him to want to succeed financially but his heart's beliefs and the depths of his soul wanted to go in a different direction.

London's first marriage (1900) was to Bess Maddern, with whom he had two daughters, Joan and Bess. In choosing her, he followed the precept in a book he co-wrote with Anna Strunsky, The Kempton-Wace Letters, that mates should be selected for good breeding, not love. (Bess agreed.) Following an affair with "New Woman" Charmian Kittredge, five years his senior, he divorced Bess. In 1905 he married his "Mate Woman," who became the persona for many of his female characters and who avidly joined him on his many travel ventures. He encouraged her own writing career, and she wrote three books concerning their life (The Log of the Snark, Our Hawaii, and The Book of Jack London)."

London has many health problems, just like his mom. His kidneys failed when he was in his thirties and he died on November 22, 1916.

Study of his life and writings provides a case through which to examine the contradictions in the American character, along with key movements and ideas prominent during the Progressive era."

TWO

COMPARISION

BETWEEN

MARTIN

AND

LONDON

There are many similarities between the author Jack London and his protagonist Martin Eden. The obvious as well as the subtle similarities come together to provide a foundational beginning of support for Nietzsche's theory.

Martin was a poor person and according to London his family was poor as well. Martin made a conscious choice to be a writer as did London. In the book of course Martin makes the choice because he wants to impress and garner the love of Ruth. Martin struggles in the beginning just the way London was reported to have struggled. He started out with jokes and short pieces and that is exactly the way he has Martin begin his writing career as well. The most striking and interesting similarity between the three dimensional real life writer and the fictional character is their love for certain political beliefs and theorists including Nietzsche. As a reader studies the entire story of Martin Eden the reader will discover how deeply entwined the character of Martin resembles the true life and belief of the author.

The similarities in the way the two writers think and act are not something that can be ignored. It becomes important when the reader begins to detail the way the story illustrates the theory by Nietzsche about religion and man's need to have it. As the story unfolds the reader will see that Martin approaches Ruth, her family and their lifestyle much the same way London, through Nietzsche's theory approaches the idea of religion.

Martin, in the story gives up everything to pursue his dream as a writer as did London in the life he carved out for himself. The success comes with a price both in the book and in real life. There was even speculation that London killed himself. This theory believes that his Martin Eden was his swan song of sorts because it gave warning that he was going to do himself in. While this theory has been largely laid to rest it does increase the similarities between the fictional and the real life character.

Jack London's Life http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/London/jackbio.html [END OF PREVIEW]

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Instant He Knew, He Ceased.  (2003, January 15).  Retrieved May 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/instant-knew-ceased/8044088

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"Instant He Knew, He Ceased."  Essaytown.com.  January 15, 2003.  Accessed May 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/instant-knew-ceased/8044088.