Jack London: Overview

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Author: Fred McEwen
Editor: Laura Standley Berger
Date: 1994
Publisher: Gale
Series: Twentieth-Century Writers Series
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 960 words

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The works of Jack London, author of some twenty novels and novellas and over one hundred short stories, are marked by an enormous amount of preparation; he once asserted that he suffered a "lack of origination" and had to gather facts from sources such as newspaper accounts and his own voracious reading, much of it in his fifteen-thousand-volume personal library. A diligent, careful, and committed writer, London also relied on his own experiences for material, ranging from his travels in the United States, the Yukon, and the Pacific to his stint in jail for vagrancy to a boat trip halfway around the world. His works focus on a cluster of themes—what he liked to call his "philosophy of life"—which stress the survival of the fittest, especially in inhospitable environments, and the virtues of courage, strength, determination, and a healthy respect for the truth.

London stands in the lofty tradition of such giants as Robert Louis Stevenson, as an able storyteller; Joseph Conrad, with whom he shared a love and respect for the sea; and Rudyard Kipling, whose sense of conflict echoes throughout London's pages. Three types of conflict can often be identified in the works of London—Man versus Nature, Man versus Man, and Man versus Himself. These are clearly depicted in the representative novels Call of the Wild, The Sea Wolf, Martin Eden, Adventure, Jerry of the Islands, Smoke Bellew, and the classic short story "To Build a Fire.


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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420005058