Rebirth: 1916

Citation metadata

Editor: Jelena O. Krstovic
From: Short Story Criticism(Vol. 133. )
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 9,288 words

Document controls

Main content

Article Preview :

[(essay date 1975) In the following essay, originally published in 1975, McClintock investigates the influence of contemporary psychoanalytic theory--particularly Jung's Psychology of the Unconscious--on London's 1916 short stories.]

Later in that March, 1916, letter to Edgar J. Sisson, despite London's protestations that he did not want to begin writing short stories after his five-year rest from them, he mentions that he had, indeed, been giving thought to writing more:

I am cudgeling my head now over a possible bunch of short stories, but I must tell you in advance that this one prospect will not consist of related short stories. Each story is a story by itself--if I can see my way to framing up a bunch of these stories. On the matter of short-story writing you and I pull at cross-purposes. This can be better stated as follows: You demand for your purposes that novels should be broken up in the writing into short story units. You demand that short stories be so related that the sum of a collection of short stories constitutes a novel. That is to say, artistically you are playing hell both with the short stories and the novels.1

It is clear from the letter that he refused to consider collections of stories like the Smoke Bellew and David Grief series that required an author to violate the demands of the genre, forcing him to provide an inorganic relationship between the stories. By now, anyone familiar with London's writing career should suspect that his resurgent interest in the genre, especially when combined with a desire to make the stories artistic, is a product of an interest in ideas and the hope that they will afford some basis for affirming life. Even though science had unsettled idealistic concepts of man, his temperament insisted that affirmations of the human condition, too, have a scientifically justifiable rationale. Early in his career, with the aid of Kipling's short story forms and techniques, he had used his enthusiastic reading of Darwin, Haeckel, and Spencer to evoke "the stinging things of the spirit" in his famous Alaskan stories. A few years later he readjusted his vision to emphasize a life-giving, "scientific" Marxism to dramatize the "strong truths" about the energy of "the people" in his socialist stories. In both cases he was motivated by a quest for a unifying concept of reality that would have scientific validity. It is not generally recognized, however, that in the last year of his life Jack London wrote a group of stories whose scientific authority derived from his reading of psychology, especially of Carl Jung's Psychology of the Unconscious in Beatrice M. Hinkle's 1916 edition.2

In 1916 he was once again captivated by theoreticians who proffered him a scientifically defensible rationale for subscribing to humanly sustaining values as he flirted dangerously with nihilism. These last stories are a record of the recurrent philosophical-psychological pattern in his early life and fiction--a movement from an excited sense that revelation is at hand to...

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420098759