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date: 14 June 2024

London, Jacklocked

London, Jacklocked

  • Robert NiemiRobert NiemiDepartment of English, Saint Michael's College


In the history of American literature, no writer has been as riddled with contradictions, as controversial, as prolific and popular in his time, or as fascinating as Jack London. He was a racist adherent of Social Darwinism yet an ardent socialist with a fierce sense of justice and an unflagging identification with the underdog. A self-taught professional deeply committed to his art and a supremely self-disciplined writer who churned out forty books and a thousand articles in less than twenty years, London never tired of declaring that he hated to write and that his motivations were entirely mercenary. Though he was a proletarian by background and was his era’s most class-conscious writer, London was equally a man avid for wealth and fame. A hard-drinking adventurer and hedonist, London struggled to be a devoted father and husband, fighting to balance his burning drives with his social conscience. Perhaps more than any other 20th-century artist, Jack London epitomizes the unbearable contradiction that lies at the heart of the American Dream: the communal, utopian desire to be on the side of justice and social progress that is forever at odds with the individualist imperative to escape poverty and powerlessness.


  • North American Literatures

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Text re-written to reflect recent scholarship.

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