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I came across an interesting essay in the Alaska Journal. It happened that there was a real prototype for the protagonist in the novel Burning Daylight. A group of pathfinders found the grave of this gold prospector on the outskirts of Fairbanks City, along the Dawson River. The man was buried at the Birch Hill cemetery. Jack London did not even change the name of his Klondike acquaintance. Elam, the gold miner with a Biblical name, was ten years older than Jack. Like London, he crossed Chilkoot Pass in the fall of 1897 and reached the hut at the upper stream of Yukon right before it froze over. There, he met with Jack.
When asked questions about his impression of Jack London, Elam Harnish usually answered: "Well, you know, Jack was hard to wake up in the mornings, but once he was awake, he was a good companion. He caught scurvy, lost all his teeth, and left in the fall of '98. I know, he became famous." Oftentimes, it used to be that Elam would get up and make a quick breakfast and then wake up his young friend with the phrase: "Get up Jack, daylight's burning!"
After sending London back home, Elam stayed in the North. He became a true gold miner, searching the riverbeds of many streams. He did some timber cutting as well, for he was a strong man and worked for three. However, he did not obtain any wealth. Having heard about the novel Burning Daylight, he immediately read it. In his opinion, the book was like the weather in the North: at times great, at times terrible. He was very pleased, though, that even twelve years later, Jack remembered him. The protagonist becomes a super rich man--an ending that disturbed Elam Harnish.
Elam continued living in Alaska. The local press remembered him from time to time. Elam lived alone but had a lot of friends. Everyone knew him and he knew everyone in the neighborhood. He was a member of the "Order of the Eagle Brotherhood," attended their meetings frequently, went fishing and hunting with them. The thing he liked to do the most was to take walks in the surrounding woods.
One of the last pioneers of Gold Fever at Klondike died on a June morning of 1941. A modest sign on his grave reads: "Harnish, Elam. Died 16 of June 1941. He was 74 years, 9 months and 6 days old." Jack London's Klondike buddy was the primary "character" in the novel, which was published in the summer of 1910. The center of the novel was a strong and courageous gold miner who reminded one of the heroes of the novels from the Northern series. London narrated a story of a breath-taking career of one of the winners of the Gold Fever. While in Alaska, Elam Harnish in the book became a millionaire, then a gambler upon his arrival in the United States, in the Valley of the Moon, a big entrepreneur once settled in California and, finally, a rancher.
In Martin Eden, the protagonist was looking for happiness in circles of the privileged class, where money was important. London brought him to a failure, thus showing that this was not the way to true happiness. Burning Daylight, unveiling the world of uncrowned rulers of America, their moral bankruptcy, London attempted to find a way out for a human being who got there full of strength, managing to keep a taste for life. In this respect, a novel that was seemingly far from Martin Eden in its theme appeared to be in touch with it in this aspect.
In Burning Daylight, Dede Mason traveled over the hilly regions of wild California, where the protagonist felt himself renewed. Meeting the settlers of these virgin lands caused him to think of moving into the world of pure nature, free from soul-polluting human civilization. Love of Dede played an essential role in rebuilding his life philosophy and in changing Elam Harnish. She declared that she would never marry Harnish, the businessman, because he was involved with dishonest operations and did not "produce anything."
Harnish left his games at the stock exchange and invested his millions into improvement of Oakland and neighboring cities. But the heroine protested; he still belonged to business. Rejecting his love, Dede rejected his $30 million as well. For her, feelings stood incomparably higher than money. She was not willing to be a toy, left and forgotten in a luxurious place. Her ideal is a friendly family life. It is all right if the family is simple, without much wealth — this is not important to her. What is important to her is that love between the spouses does not dissolve, does not get eaten up by the powerful greed for benefit and profit.
Even for such an avid gambler and businessman as Harnish, love is too big of a stake to risk it. He leaves business, spends his money left and right, and secludes himself and his loved one from civilization at a small farm in a magical corner of the Valley of the Moon, where the two newlyweds make everything by their own hands and find happiness together.
Teamster Bill and laundress Saxon, characters of London's The Valley of the Moon, solve their problems in a similar fashion. The first two parts of this longest of London's novels were devoted to the description of the harsh life of the main characters. London provided a broad picture of their existence. He portrayed the class struggle led by the Oakland proletariat. With crude realism, London illustrated the depths of Saxon's despair, caused by her husband's arrest, which left her hungry and close to insanity. She finds out about the great amount of food that is being dumped into the ocean by her landlords. The Bay is full of melons cut up especially for the seawater to spoil and make them unsuitable to eat. Oranges, apples, fish — everything is dumped in the sea. Saxon is shocked to witness such impossible cruelty on society's part. As he observes and interweaves the doings of the world into the novel, the author is also hurting together with the characters.
Telling about love and the life of the heroes, Jack London tried to reveal the laws of happiness in family life. The secret lies in mutual respect, in being attentive to each other's tastes and habits, in helping and caring for one another. The third part of the novel, continuing the narration about the newlywed couple, described their escape from the city into the Valley of the Moon, where they find peace and happiness. In many of London's works, the place of the action is connected with the regions around San Francisco Bay. It is here that events of The Sea-Wolf, Iron Heel, Martin Eden, Burning Daylight, and other novels and stories take place. London figured as a historian of California, its towns and farms, its industrial center in San Francisco and its inhabitants. He appeared to be a scribe of its events and social discordances. He also praised the nature of this place as rich and generous with vegetation, its comparatively late settlement, its rather low unemployment and less noticeable social contrasts.
The Valley of the Moon, found by the characters of the novel, is the very Sonoma Valley where Jack London lived. Everything about the valley and its nature was captured in great detail. The chapters devoted to the valley breathe with love for this land, marked with intense truthfulness and authenticity. The Valley of the Moon had tremendous success. The edition of its very first publication was rather extensive by former standards, almost 24 thousand copies. Only the novella The Game and the novel Burning Daylight had more copies in print. Works of far greater circulation were London's bestsellers, including The Call of the Wild, The Sea-Wolf, and White Fang.
By the time The Valley of the Moon (1913) was ready for publication, London was already finishing up working on a new book, The Mutiny of the Elsinore (1914). Its protagonist, writer John Pathurst, was fed up with life. He came on board a ship to seek refuge from vanity, to think over his future life. He was haunted by the thought to leave the vanities of this world. He reminds us of the protagonist of Martin Eden—a weary and disillusioned belle lettrist who also came on board a ship to leave the shores of America and decide his future. After giving it some thought, Martin committed suicide. The story of another Jack London hero seems to start where Eden's life was close to its end.
According to London, Martin Eden was an attempt to condemn individualism. The protagonist died because he lost everything that was worth living for. Would John Pathurst find meaning in life? If he would, then in what? These were the questions for the inquisitive reader. Gradually, Pathurst turned into a "teeth-crusher," a complete Nietzschean tamer of a "lower race." It was the Captain's daughter, Margaret, who awoke in him a desire for life. Through Pathurst's eyes, London vividly described numerous virtues of the heroine. He noted her physical and moral health. This "healthiness" was evident in the fact that she enjoyed literature that avoided talking about the harsh reality of life; that her playing the piano was devoid of any deep feelings; and even in that she was far from being sentimental. She despised the sailors, the "lower race." Violence on their part does not shock her. This woman joyfully met mutiny and shot at sailors without any hesitation.
Praising the heroine, Pathurst doled out a compliment about her: "Undoubtedly, she bore all the marks of the healthy human female, who was never worried nor vexed in the spirit of her, and in whose body every process and function was frictionless and strong and automatic." The novel is full of maxims. Here are some of them: "Love is the final word. To the rational man it alone gives the super rational sanction for living. Love is the justification of existence."
Through John Pathurst, the author called out to his readers to submit to the rules of life, "to throw both his arms around love and hold it closer to him. This is the summit of his life, and of man's life. Higher than this no man may rise." Such is the conclusion of the novel. At some point, life proved to London that faith in people and understanding of others' needs saves people. He persistently tried to convince himself that love was the only remedy for those who concerned themselves with societal conflict. Such was the realization of a businessman in Burning Daylight, a boxer in the novel Abysmal Brute, an active striker in The Valley of the Moon, and a bored, wealthy writer in The Mutiny of the Elsinore. The characters in the novel were clearly divided into the representatives of a "higher race," to which Pathurst, Captain West, his two assistants and his daughter Margaret belonged, and a "lower race," which included the rest of the crewmembers.
Representatives of the "higher race" were characterized by intellectual talents and physical health. The outside appearance of other people on the ship — the sailors — was purposefully presented in the worst possible light. Pathurst, the character of central intelligence in the novel, had never encountered more pitiful and disgusting ragged fellows even in the dirtiest and most God-forsaken places. These were people of the slums. They caused nothing but disgust not only by their appearance, but also by the way they moved and talked. Every one of them had some physical defect, either a hunched body or deformed face. Almost everyone was short in height. Their intellectual development was poor. Some of them suffered from emotional instability. These people were the dregs of society. It seemed London did not have even a shadow of sympathy toward the very people of the slums he was writing about with such pain and compassion in People of the Abyss. There were only one, perhaps two people in the whole crew to whom the author was not so merciless. Pathurst feels something similar to respect toward the leader of the strikers, Bert Rein. Bert commanded his colleagues, thus showing some qualities that were characteristic of the "higher race."
London's deviation from a democratic movement was evident in the way he created an image of a sailor Mulligan Jacobs. Jacobs is intellectually developed and well read. He has read Shakespeare, Byron, and Zola, and has his own opinions on literature. His favorite writer is Anatole France. He called Maeterlinck an old witch permeated with mysticism, while Emerson for him was a charlatan. He considered Ibsen's Ghosts a good work of literature, although he openly called the author a "sponger of bourgeoisie." He recognized Heine as "goods of high quality," preferred Flaubert to Maupassant, and Turgenev over Tolstoy. However, he considered Gorky the best of all Russian writers. Pathurst, not without some basis, thought of Jacobs as one of the Reds, for the latter spoke in favor of the open revolt and considered mass strikes to be the most effective means of action.
However, Mulligan Jacobs was terminally ill and, therefore, weak and unable to rebuild the world he hated. He turned into a misanthrope and an angry negativist, into a dim cynic and a sadist, who was unable to have any feeling of compassion at the death of a sailor, and took pleasure in torturing a shark. His bravery is desperate and reckless. London noted this was the type of bravery that a snake would display. And although Jacobs criticized the representatives of the "higher race" (the only critical comment in the novel) whom he called robbers of human labor, he himself was an egoist who loved "only himself and his petty back." Jacobs can cause disgust, and therefore the reader does not take his judgments seriously. His criticism had even less weight and his views were far less attractive than the criticism and views of Russ Brissenden, a socialist in the novel Martin Eden. This determined the depth of ideological recession that the author experienced.
London drew experiences for The Mutiny of the Elsinore, from his travels around Cape Horn. He went on this trip on the trade ship "Dirigo." The trip started on the 2nd of March 1912, and lasted for five months. Like "Elsinore," "Dirigo" sailed from Baltimore, a port on the Atlantic coast of the United States, to Seattle, located in the Pacific northwestern United States. The ship's captain, the arrogant, always perfectly dressed, aristocratic Omar Chapman probably served as a prototype for the Captain of "Elsinore." It is also possible that other members of the crew became characters in the novel. Fresh impressions from the sea trip made it possible for London to create extremely vivid and truthful accounts of sailors and life on the ocean. Two of the strongest elements present in The Mutiny of the Elsinore were the admiration of the sailor's profession and the romantic realism that were present in author's portrayal of human's struggle with nature.
With great artistic power, London revealed the hardships and joys of the sailor's profession. The writer emphasized the contrast between the life of the "chosen" and the life of sailors, between roomy, carpeted salons and tiny sailors' cabins with bare metal walls and floors, where they come to rest after exhausting watches. Not being able to dry themselves, they drop down on their bunks, not bothering to change clothes, but trying to dry them out with the warmth of their own bodies. Their job involved risk; it required the concentration of all of one's human strength and incredible courage.
At times, it startles readers with how much these sailors change once they are entangled in a struggle with nature. They are the ones who must navigate the ship. In the hours of nature's wild outbursts, everyone handles it remarkably well, while Captain West truly embodies the triumph of man over nature. The pages that describe the crew's fight with the storm are very poetic. They sound like a powerful symphony to the deity of all living things—a human being. The religious terminology employed in the description gives this passage a specifically solemn and lofty spirit.
London's sea was colorful and had a spirit of its own. Depending on the time of day, geographical position or strength of the wind, it changed its color and character. The sea was full of different sounds and full of life; it was capricious and clever, insidious and obedient. Having lost self-control, the sea was ready to destroy everything alive, but a human being, familiar with the laws of the sea, was able to tame it. Nothing in this world surpasses human intellect. This was one of the themes that emerged in the novel.
In the first decade of the century, London grew interested in the theories of psychoanalysis. He familiarized himself with Freud, read the works of Carl Jung. Also, he read others, who tended to focus on the psychological, often mysterious, aspect of humans, and who attempted to analyze the disturbed psyche. This new interest of London was reflected in The Mutiny of the Elsinore. It was evident in the choice of characters and in the manner in which he described their personalities. From the very first pages, he attempted to create a sense of anticipation of something horrible; he tried to stir a feeling of uneasiness. "ALL our voyage from Baltimore south to the Horn and around the Horn has been marked by violence and death." This was the first line of the novel. Then, London returned to the same thought over and over again, showing how events turned against the intentions of the protagonist. Led by a gut feeling, Pathurst tried to leave the ship. The atmosphere on board the ship depressed him, something bothered him, maybe the mysteriousness of the Captain, or maybe the strange crew.
Pathurst's morbid and split mind added to the general tension of the opening chapters. The Mutiny of the Elsinore, in artistic regard, is on a higher level than the novel Adventure (1910). The author worked more seriously on the former book. The plot was developed better; the characters were presented more fully. The feature characteristic of the novel is a determination to get away from mono-heroic structure (the attention is relatively equally distributed among the four characters: West, Pike, Pathurst, and Margaret). The feature to which London still remained faithful was his craving for exotics and searching for the appropriate setting.
Despite a more careful literary treatment, The Mutiny of the Elsinore, like Adventure, was written by rote of mass literature, intended for an undemanding reader. It is probable that the novel stood second in the number of murders compared to Adventure. The author's capability to recreate events in this sphere was limited by the relatively small crew of the ship. However, the methods of murder were significantly more creative. People were killed by means of a revolver, a gun, a knife, and a piece of steel. People were being poked, thrown overboard as food for birds and sharks, and poured over with acid. For example, Mr. Pike, embracing his enemy, disappeared in the depths of the ocean. Also, the more "modern" methods were used (the author really got creative here): people were being poisoned with sulfur gases. The characters went insane and threw themselves overboard. The writer tried to be "entertaining" as much as possible. "Our entire trip from Baltimore to the Horn and farther, was marked with violence and deaths," notes Pathurst, long before the revolt.
The Mutiny of the Elsinore represented both an ideological and artistic decline in London's creative work. It witnessed that the author, trying to use his talent to please others' tastes, cruelly deformed his talent. The decisions that the writer made in his novel are astonishing. If in The People of the Abyss he showed great sympathy for the ones rejected by society, here he expressively despised them; if in The Sea-Wolf, having defined a Nietzschean, he put him down, in The Mutiny of the Elsinore he praised the whole gang of "super humans." While in Martin Eden his objective was to put down an individual, to show that his ideology leads into a dead end and spiritual crisis (no matter how much he wanted it to work, this attempt did not succeed), in The Mutiny of the Elsinore, London provided a remedy that was not a remedy against individualism. Instead, he offered a solution on how to save lives and achieve happiness by the way of promoting and strengthening the values suggested by Nietzsche.
The novel became a rather disillusioning blight in the development of London's literary career. It seemed the contradictions and failures in life that crowded and grew in his soul, killed the progressive artist within him. However, his further works showed that this is not the case. Targeting an undemanding reader did improve his financial situation, but brought neither artistic nor spiritual satisfaction. Upton Sinclair was right, a thousand times right. "There were times," he wrote, "when I was ready to admit that America has finally finished off Jack London, like it finished off Mark Twain. But every time, something happened that would show me that I was giving up my hopes too easily. Jack possessed a tireless mind that never let him sit around doing nothing. His love for truth burned with passion; his anger against injustice burned within him with the power of volcanic flames."
Such works as The Star Rover, The Scarlet Plague (1915), The Little Lady of the Big House (1916) and two of his novels about dogs, together with his marvelous stories, all revealed London's desire to stay true to himself. The action of The Star Rover (1915) was set in San Quentin Penitentiary in 1913. Professor of Agronomy, Darrel Stending, was spending his lifetime imprisonment in solitary confinement. He was slanderously convicted of hiding dynamite and was subjected to beatings and inhuman tortures. He was put in a "straitjacket." The author bluntly depicted the horrors of the American prison: the everyday life filled with bloody tortures which drove prisoners to insanity and suicide. The prisoners were kept hungry, without food or water. In the course of the first six years, one quarter of the forty falsely accused men died, many of those who were still alive had gone insane. The terrible, cruel punishment of confining a man to a straightjacket could break even the most unbreakable of men in a matter of hours.
Much of what London described was real. Ed Morrell, prisoner in a solitary confinement cell at San Quentin, gave the material for the novel to the author. His character was developed in the novel. In one of his letters on the improvement of the conditions for prisoners, London declared: "I have little faith in prison reform. Prisons are just consequences. When you are trying to reform them, you are trying to reform the consequence. The disease itself remains." The novel emphasized the subordination of the prison to the government: it is a governmental institution, the consequence of it, by which the government can be judged. The author tried to make readers realize that prisons were funded by money from naive taxpayers, who do not have any idea what kind of cruel institutions were being financed. The special committees sent to evaluate the prison conditions were consciously being told lies.
London criticized the cruelty of American laws that allowed torture and killing of innocent people. "Oh, dear, cotton wool citizen!" exclaims the author through Standing. "Please believe me, when I tell you that men are killed in prison to day as they always have been — ever since the first prisons were built by men." Standing talked about hypocrisy of the Biblical commandment "Thou Shall Not Kill" as it applied to a society, where a powerful weapon of destruction is being built, where children must work and women, the daughters of the working class, are subjected to slavery; the society where bribery and venality of political leaders has become a system. In olden times, people also were killed. However, there was no hypocrisy about it. The press and university professors were not invited to witness such savage and beastly events.
Analyzing his "wanderings" within different epochs, Standing concluded that the moral fortitude of the modern society had weakened. He believed that a woman who lived fifty thousand years ago was cleaner, more pure. Family relations, on average, were more fair than today. He thinks "a human being, as an individual, did not make any moral progress within the last ten thousand years," and that "underneath a thin veneer of morality," he insists: "Fifty thousand years ago our women were cleaner, our family and group relations more rigidly right." London recreated friendships between the prisoners and talked about their solidarity. He created repulsive images of prison guards, the stupid and heartless executioners, who, in their cultural and moral development, were inferior to the very people they guarded. London's sympathies were wholly on the side of the prisoners. Not relying on any reform from the top of societal structure, London appealed to the wide audience of his readers.
London's intent to expose the condition of prisons, to display prisons as one of the inhuman institutions of the government machine, was undoubtedly progressive and democratic. The novel exerted its positive influence. Bill Haywood commented on the help that London's book provided for him and his friends in the time of their imprisonment. The same influence was evident from the angry attacks on the novel from the government, which accused London of twisting the facts. However, remaining a realist in the construction and resolution of the problem, London chose an incredible plot development. I have in mind one of the characteristics of the protagonist — his ability to die by so-called "little death." Standing's soul leaves his body and flies to the interstellar worlds, or moves into the historical past. This is not the first time that London writes about astral projection, or more exactly, the mind's retreat into a historical past. In Before Adam (1907), he portrayed a man who possesses an amazing ability to "remember" things about the lives of his remote ancestors. However, in that instance, the writer tried to explain such unique ability from a materialistic point of view: the memories were nothing more than the experience of his forefathers that the man inherited. The protagonist dreamed of events that his ancestors witnessed.
In The Star Rover, however, the supernatural qualities of Darrell Standing were explained by the reincarnation of the soul. His soul, before it got into the body of Professor Standing, belonged to several people of different epochs and nations and retained memories of its former embodiments. As a proof of such reincarnation, the main character made reference to Henri Bergson. He called matter "an illusion," and the spirit "the only existing reality." Matter, in Standing's opinion, does not have memory, but a spirit does.
This idealistic position served as the basis for London's plot. During the cruel tortures in a "straitjacket," to escape from suffering, the protagonist "dies the small death": he is traveling through ancient epochs and countries and tells about his trips to the readers. Such a literary device allowed London to move the action into any time period and any country and to bring in any characters. It allowed for a break in the oppressive mood created by the description of daily prison life and tortures that Standing underwent. At first, it seemed as if the inserted passages of wanderings of Standing's soul do not have any correlation to the plot and ideas of the novel. However, this is not so. Later on, the main character made an important conclusion based on the material of his dreams; therefore, it is necessary to pause and, at least, briefly consider these short stories of the soul.
The first one was devoted to a French Count and spendthrift, Sainte-Marie, killed in a duel, the cause of which was, of course, a woman. The second one was about an American boy, Jesse, his father and mother. In this little story, a fight of the settlers with Mormons and Indians was described. The interesting detail to note here: the author showed that the Indians had a friendlier disposition to the white strangers from the East than did their white brothers, the Mormons. The latter cruelly killed adults and children, including little Jesse.
London then brought Standing's soul into Egypt, into the weary body of a dirty recluse, living in a cave. The writer made fun of this God-fearing, worthless creature, trembling in anticipation of the end of the world (the action takes place around the third century AD). And one of these stories was about the adventures of an English sailor, Adam Streng, who lived around the sixteenth or seventeenth century. He arrived at a group of islands in the Western part of the Pacific Ocean, and then Korea, where he became the lover of a Princess and the most influential man at the court. The princess remained loyal to him even in the days of shame and poverty.
The place of the fifth vision (the Near East, in the Roman provinces) was on the verge of the new era. In this dream, the witness of the important events was the Roman Leader of warriors, Ragnar Lodbrog. In this story, as in the majority of the preceding ones, a woman played a significant part in the life of a main character. The novel carried out a Robinson Crusoe story of sorts: it told about an American sailor, Daniel Foss, who "left the port of Philadelphia in 1809 on board the ship Navigator" which eventually brought him to the desert island where he spent eight years. The author obviously was ironic in his imitation of Daniel Defoe's famous novels, in which characters were always accompanied by Providence. In London's version, for example, thanks to Providence, a man who was thrown on a completely bare and deserted island survived and led a rather well-off life.
Beside the above-mentioned stories, London gave a brief description of the characters of the pre-historic world. Professor Standing, as the writer explained, was the sum total of all the described characters, which gave him an opportunity to evaluate history better and find that common element that unites him with the "forerunners of his body." What was the result of such traveling of Standing's soul? The prehistoric man used to fight for the sake of woman. It was for her that he hunted animals, sowed wheat and barley, built a fire. Without a woman, man's life was pitiful — the life of the recluse was a proof of that. A woman played an important role on the verge of the Christian era, in the life of the Roman War Leader, Lodbrog. A woman was a loyal companion to Adam Streng and a courageous mother of little Jesse. In modern times, a woman became a cause for murders executed by the Count Sainte-Marie, as well as the cause of his own death. As it appears later on, Professor Standing was also imprisoned because of the woman in his life — in a rage of jealousy; he had sent his colleague to another world.
A prehistoric man, a modern man, a Roman, a Frenchman, an American and an Englishman are all united by one eternal common element. Standing tried to describe this common ground: "When I observe my endless past history, I notice some great and complex influences on it, and in the first place among these influences — is love of a woman. . . . In the ages passed, I see myself a lover, an eternal lover! I was a great warrior, because I was able to love with great love. Sometimes, it seems to me that the history of humanity — is the history of the love of a woman."
Distant and uncertain sounds the protagonist's claim that he knows, like every generation before him, the value of woman and her weaknesses. He knows that she tries to keep a man as far away from the battles as possible. His mind is aware of it, but Standing himself is powerless in front of passion. Consequently, the biological in humans carries the decisive right, and woman becomes the crown of the entire living world.
"The greatest thing in life, in all lives to me and to all men, has been woman, is woman, and will be woman [a reminder that he is the leading voice of the narration], and will be woman so long as the stars drift in the sky and the heavens flux eternal change." Right before his execution, Standing expressed his last and only dream: in the life after the execution, he wants his soul to be in the body of a farmer. He would like to devote his whole life to farming. As far as we can see, here is the familiar tendency of London to bring the entire reason for human existence to love and farming. It seems this idea turned into a mania for him. Just as in The Valley of the Moon, the author put forth actual problems, but brought all their diversity and complexity down to the same basic question, to the only point, as if not understanding that by having opened up this seemingly universal truth, he got into a deadlock. London used Buddha's religious concept of reincarnation of the souls! He got carried away imagining the breadth of possibilities in the novel structure that this approach would give him. A significant place in the novel was devoted to the description of and the basis for self-hypnosis, this "little death" that let the protagonist "separate soul from body." However, it should not lead one into assuming that the author reconsidered his materialistic views.
In a letter to Ralph Kasper, dated 25 June 1914, written just days before the novel was almost completed, London wrote the following: "I am a hopeless materialist. I see the soul as nothing else than the sum of the activities of the organism plus personal habits, memories, and experiences of the organism, plus inherited habits, memories, experiences, of the organism. I believe that when I am dead, I am dead. I believe that with my death I am just as much obliterated as the last mosquito you or I smashed. I have no patience with fly-by-night philosophers such as Bergson. I have no patience with the metaphysical philosophers." In another letter, calling the work a pseudoscientific novel, London explained his idea in the following way: "The key idea of the book: the triumph of Spirit. This is the praise of love and woman."
Nevertheless, even if The Star Rover did not represent the writer's parting with the ideas of materialism, it did speak about the confusion in his mind, about serious contradictions in his view of the world, about the internal struggle that he experienced. This could not help but be reflected in the style of the novel — very uneven in the composition — chaotic in the character of the protagonist.
Copyright © 2004 by Vil M. Bykov