A Analysis Of Jack London Novels

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A Analysis Of Jack London Novels

A literary Analysis of Jack London three most recognized works, Sea Wolf; The Call of the Wild; and White Fang.



Jack London lived a full life, even though he died at the young age of forty. In his life
time he experienced many things, and I believe that these experiences were the catalyst of
his novels. Jack London was an oyster pirate, a government patrolman in San Francisco Bay,
a sailor and an agrarian reformer, a seal hunter in the North Pacific and a gold
prospector in the frozen Klondike, a war correspondent and a prizefighting reporter, a
socialist soapbox orator who later became a lecturer at universities, a family man and
landowner, and of course a true American writer. A critic by the name of Alfred Kazin once
said "that the greatest story London ever wrote was the one he lived."

London had a hard life as a child and as a young man, in spite of this London grew to
become one of Americas most popular and highly paid authors ever. He was not a baby
boomer. This was not just an American thing, London was known around the world for his
great adventure stories, that could be enjoyed by all ages. Londons life was diversified
and so were his writings. Today, London is mostly known for his "dog stories", The Call of
the Wild and White Fang. In addition to those great works London wrote many other stories
and novels, all of which were published in the seventeen years that he wrote
professionally. Londons writings vary in quality as well as in subject, his from the
cheapest and worst kind of pieces to the beautiful works like The Call of the Wild and Sea
Wolf. In this literary analysis the focus will be on Londons more well known and enjoyed
works.

Londons life defiantly coincides with his writing. Professor Earle Labor attributes
London's success as a writer to three different factors: poverty- how London rose from the
bottom all the way to the top, wanderlust- the fact that he spent a good portion of his
life on the road gave him ample material to write about, and last but not least was, "the
omnivorous appetite for reading that gave him his philosophical substance and sense of
artistic form."

London was a complex individual whose character was made up of apparent contradictions. He
was a declared socialist, but above all, a devout individualist. He believed in the
politics and economics of socialism and decried the iniquities Of capitalism, but at the
same time set out to succeed within that system. And he did, earning more money than any
other writer before him. He appeared to be a well rounded man in all things, but he was
plagued by ill health, and he consistently hurt his physical state by exerting himself to
the utmost. He helped create a London myth by refraining from denying untrue stories of
his superhuman exploits, but yet he strongly believed in being honest to everyone. He was
a lover of humanity who wanted and fought for equality and justice for all, at the same
time stressed the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race. This mixture in London prefigured the
twentieth century with its dramatic inconsistencies, its political and social revolutions,
and its great upheavals in world culture. For London broadcast his message of raw life
with all its inherent flaws, ecstasies, and miseries at a time when the world was still
digesting "Victorian pap", the sentimental stories of drawing room propriety that demanded
a rigorous screening of anything unseemly. Jack London cracked the hypothetical bed of
that literary world.

"The Call of the Wild and White Fang are two of London's best and most popular works" says
Paul Horowitz . In both of these stories he stressed the fact that human and dog
relationships. He probably started the common phrase "mans best friend".

The Call of the Wild met with instantaneous success upon its publication and soon won for
its author international fame. Today both works are in constant demand throughout the
world by people of all ages. London set out to write a companion piece to an earlier
story, Bitard. Bitard had represented the personification of absolute evil in a dog and
with the goal of redeeming the species. This story wasn't complete so London began The
Call of the Wild. He later said that the writing it' got away from me ... before I could
call a halt." In the end, a masterpiece was created. The inspired quality of its language,
which reads like a in depth poem, and its pulsing drive give the work a such a great
twist.

On the surface, it is the adventure story of a dog, Buck, who is forcibly taken from an
easy life in sunny California to the frozen North. He is put to work pulling sleds, Buck
fights with self determination and finally " Buck took up the duties of leadership"( p.
40). He over comes the lead dog named Spitz in order to become the lead dog, but once Buck
earns this position he leads a good sled team that is not ready for the new owners. The
new team is sold to some new people who are not ready for the hardships of the Klondike,
and they eventually starve to death. All of the dogs on the team die, except for Buck.
Buck was rescued by a well known gold prospector by the name of John Thornton. Buck falls
in love with John and will not leave his side. The one time Buck hears " The sounding of
the call" (p. 63) and he leaves the camp of John Thornton to be with the wolves. When Buck
returns to camp he finds John Thornton dead because of Indians. Eventually, he responds to
a higher call and escapes to the wild and leads the wolf pack. The story, though, has
meaning on psychological levels. Primarily, it is a metaphors about a human relating the
journey of the hero as he passes through the trials of initiation and the stages of
transformation into a higher nature, until finally there is greatness in both the dog as a
whole and in his creation.

Following the success of The Call of the Wild, London decided to write a complementary
work-the story of a dog taken out of the wild to become part of civilization.

Thus, White Fang was created. White Fang is about wolf who's mother goes into a tribe of
Indians because food is scarce. The cub ( White Fang) is taken in by a tribe but at the
same time rejected by his mother. This is the first step in his hard upbringing. He is not
friend to all of the other Indian dogs and even the Indians. He leaves camp with his
master. He is sold to a new owner. This new owner is mean to the dog and does not let him
live a desired life. This new owner makes white fang a fighting dog. The wolf is the champ
of the region until he fights a small bull dog. "White Fang tore wildly around, trying to
shake off the bulldog's body" (p. 167)He almost dies but the fight is broken up and white
fang is rescued by a good man by the name of Weedon Scott. White Fang loves his new master
and this is the first time he has experienced love for anything. Scott eventually has to
go home to California and is about to leave White Fang. "White Fang was howling as dogs
howl when their masters lie dead" (p. 186) White Fang did not want this to happen so he
ran as fast as possible to the ferry and just made it. Scott goes back to California and
White Fang lives there happily ever after. White Fang, however, lacked the depth of the
former book, and, though well written and a wonderful novel in itself, was unable to have
more than one level to its subject. It remains more a fable built upon ideas rather than
an overwhelming vision of life as a whole. White Fang, representing the tried-and-true dog
who was rescued by the love of civilized man, serves better as the complement or opposite
to Bitard, the abysmal brute and outcast of civilization.

A major theme in both The Call of the Wild and White Fang- that appears throughout the
author's writings is that of wild, essential natures pitted against civilization or
cultivation. It is through this struggle that some find strengths they had not realized
they possessed, others fall to forces greater than they; still others are unable to face
the struggle at all. Buck, in The Call of the Wild, responds to his essential nature
calling to him through all the acquired layers of civilized habit. For Buck, hesitation of
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