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Jack London

STUDYWORLD STUDYNOTES

Jack London


One of America's finest and most frequently translated authors, Jack London was born in San Francisco in 1876. He wrote numerous short stories, novels, plays, and essays mostly dealing with struggle for survival.

Jack's early years were difficult and he had to help support his family from the age of 14. He had little formal schooling but he was an avid reader, educating himself at public libraries. In later years (mid-1890s), Jack returned to high school in Oakland and graduated. He eventually gained admittance to U.C. Berkeley, but stayed only for six months, finding it to be “not alive enough” and a “passionless pursuit of passionless intelligence”.

Jack’s extensive life experiences included being a laborer, factory worker, oyster pirate on the San Francisco Bay, member of the California Fish Patrol, sailor, railroad hobo, and gold prospector (in the Klondike from 1897-1898).

The time that he spent in the Klondike region appears to have been the most important period of his life because there he found the material for the stories and novels that made him famous. His most notable books include The Call of the Wild (originally entitled “The Sleeping Wolf”) which was published in 1903, The Iron Heel, White Fang, The Sea-Wolf (originally entitled “Mercy of the Sea”), The People of the Abyss (a sociological treatise about the slums of London, England), John Barleycorn, Martin Eden, and The Star Rover. His short story, “To Build A Fire”, is considered to be an all-time classic.

In 1900, Jack married Bess Maddern with whom he had two daughters - Joan and Bess. After only three years, he was divorced. He subsequently married his secretary Charmian Kittredge, with whom he said that he found true love. They had one child, a daughter, who died a few hours after being born.

With Charmian, he sailed the Pacific to the South Seas. This experience became the basis for his book, The Cruise of the Snark.

Throughout most of his life, Jack was plagued by a vast number of health problems such as stomach disturbances and failing kidneys. He died at age forty on November 22, 1916.

Jack was a liberalist and a spokesman for socialism as well as women's suffrage. This philosophy was reflected in his essays collected in The People of the Abyss (1903). His strong understanding for the poor and extraordinary ability to utilize his personal experiences as a source for his writing, helped him to become America's first successful working class writer.

 

 

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