The World of Jack London
Excerpt: 1

“The Kipling of the Klondike”:
Naturalism in London's Early Fiction

Earl J. Wilcox

THE FIRST PERIOD of Jack London's fiction clearly indicates the ways in which both his personal experiences and his reading shaped his outlook. Though London had been writing and sending his stories to publishers for some time, not until December, 1899, when Houghton Mifflin offered him a contract for his first volume of short stories, did he gain any recognition. The first collection, The Son of the Wolf (1900), outlined the plots, introduced the characters, and announced the themes that were later to give London a title of which he was proud. “The Kipling of the Klondike.” The stories tell of man's attempts to survive the forces of nature, the threat of savages, and the competition with other fortune seekers in the north country. In The God of His Fathers (1901), London was eager to show that he could vary his themes, though keeping them essentially the same as in the first collection: the survival of the fittest, the deterministic orientation of the universe, and the superiority of the inevitable white man. In his first novel, A Daughter of the Snows (1902), London used his first opportunity to explore in some detail the ideas he had introduced in the short stories. When the novel proved an inept vehicle for London's talents at this point in his career, he turned again to the stories, exploring the same general theses in Children of the Frost (1902).

“The White Silence” introduced London's hero of the Yukon and the Klondike, the Malemute Kid. The story also introduced the dominant philosophical and stylistic patterns that characterize not only the stories and the novel of this first period of London's career but of the whole range of his fiction. Undoubtedly London's most secure position in American letters rests on the quality of these early stories. For even the first one he shows his talent for developing a relationship between theme and character as he places man in the presence of the White Silence:

The afternoon wore on, and with the awe, born out of the White Silence the voiceless travelers bent to their work. Nature has many tricks wherewith she convinces man of his finity, — the ceaseless flow of the tides, the fury of the storm, the shock of the earthquake, the long roll of heaven's artillery, — but the most tremendous, the most stupefying of all, is the passive phase of the White Silence. All movement ceases, the sky clears, the heavens are as brass; the slightest whisper seems sacrilege, and man becomes timid, affrighted at the sound of his own voice. Sole speck of life journeying across the ghostly wastes of a dead world he trembles at his audacity, realizes that his is a maggot's life, nothing more. Strange thoughts arise unsummoned, and the mystery of all things strives for utterance. And the fear of death, of God, of the universe, comes over him, — the hope of the Resurrection and the Life, the yearning for immortality, the vain striving of the imprisoned essence, — it is then, if ever, man walks alone with God.

This description of environment is significant primarily because London's naturalistic heroes must cope with it in order to survive. The inter-relationship between man and nature is of central importance in London's fiction, even as it had been in Crane's Maggie where the city overcomes Maggie. For as Darwinian “animals,” the characters in London's northland stories learn that they must adapt to the environment or be subdued by it. This relationship is clearly outlined in the beginning of “In a Far Country.”

When a man journeys into a far country, he must be prepared to forget many of the things he has learned, and to acquire such customs as are inherent with existence in the new land; he must abandon the old ideals and the old gods, and oftentimes he must reverse the very codes by which his conduct has hitherto been shaped. To those who have the protean faculty of adaptability, the novelty of such change may even be a source of pleasure; but to those who happen to be hardened to the ruts in which they were created, the pressure of the altered environment is unbearable, and they chafe in body and in spirit under the new restrictions which they do not understand. This chafing is bound to act and react, producing divers evils and leading to various misfortunes. It were better for the man who cannot fit himself to the new groove to return to his own country; if he delay too long, he will surely die.2

As a prelude to an “inevitable” battle between the Red Man and the White Man in a later story in the same collection, a similar setting in all its naturalistic splendor is detailed:

On every hand stretched the forest primeval, — the home of noisy comedy and silent tragedy. Here the struggle for survival continued to wage with all its ancient brutality. Briton and Russian were still to overlap in the Land of the Rainbow's End — and this was the very heart of it — nor had Yankee gold yet purchased its vast domain.

The wolf-pack still clung to the flank of the cariboo-herd, singling out the weak and the big with calf, and pulling them down as remorselessly as were it a thousand, thousand generations into the past. The sparse aborigines still acknowledged the rule of their chiefs and medicine men, drove out bad spirits, burned their witches, fought their neighbors, and ate their enemies with a relish which spoke well of their bellies. But it was at the moment when the stone age was drawing to a close. Already, over unknown trails and chartless wildernesses, were the harbingers of the steel arriving, — fair-faced, blue-eyed, indomitable men, incarnations of the unrest of their race. By accident or design, single-handed and in twos and threes, they came from no one knew whither, and fought, or died, or passed on, no one knew whence.3

The Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest is carefully woven into this pattern of man's struggles. In no less than ten of the first twenty-five stories the survival motif dominates the action, and it is implicit in almost all of the others. Although in later stories and a novel London was to expand the survival thesis to include species generally, in these first stories the emphasis primarily is that of survival of the individual.

In “The White Silence” Malemute accompanies a man and his wife through the Yukon in an attempt to get to civilization before Spring. But the hostile environment overcomes Mason, the traveler, in the form of a huge tree which falls on him. Nature plays the same trick on a group of travelers in “In a Far Country.” Some of the voyageurs make the trip safely back to civilization, but two men from the “older” civilization remain behind and fail to survive because of their inability to adapt to the environment.

In these stories London makes clear that the “law of survival” permeates all levels of existence. For when Malemute's dogs weaken in their traces, the stronger dogs devour the weak. And when the dogs are unable to subsist on their own ration, they turn to men in order to survive. After Mason dies, Malemute tries to find food for himself and the woman, only to return to discover the dogs attacking. Darwinian survival is stated in its simplest terms.

Bursting into the camp . . . (Malemute) saw the girl in the midst of the snarling pack, laying about her with an axe. The dogs had broken the iron rule of their masters and were rushing the grub. He joined the issue with his rifle reversed, and the hoary game of natural selection was played out with all the ruthlessness of its primeval environment. Rifle and axe went up and down, hit or missed with monotonous regularity; lithe bodies flashed, with wild eyes and dripping fangs; and man and beast fought for supremacy to the bitterest conclusion. Then the beaten brutes crept to the edge of the firelight, licking their wounds, voicing their misery to the stars.4

Indeed, only the fittest survive either nature's or man's attacks.

The affinity between man and dog is no mere accidental relationship to suggest that both obey laws of survival. In the evolutionary scheme of things both obey such laws because both are part of the evolutionary process. Man is merely a high-order animal, and his survival, his progress toward a higher state, is dependent upon his adaptability. In the northland, environmental and hereditary traits are more forcefully evident because of the heightened struggle. And under stress, man shows his latent animal traits — his atavism — and reverts to that state. The allusion to “son” in “The Son of the Wolf” is probably meant, therefore, to convey that Scruff Mackenzie, the protagonist, is a descendant of some earlier animal form, or simply that his survival indicates his animal nature. London describes Mackenzie as a true product of the wild:

'Scruff' Mackenzie bore the earmarks of a frontier birth and a frontier life. His face was stamped with twenty-five years of incessant struggle with Nature in her wildest moods,—the last two, the wildest and hardest of all, having been spent in groping for the gold which lies in the shadow of the Arctic Circle. 5

The survival-oriented plot involves Mackenzie's desire to have Zarinska, an Indian maiden, for his wife. To win her he must fight Fox, the medicine man, who has been claiming that his black magic can subdue the white man's. Finally the two engage in physical battle in a fight for survival. The entire fight is a re-enactment of the survival motif:

Time and again . . . (Mackenzie) was forced to the edge of the fire or the deep snow, and time and again, with the foot tactics of the pugilist, he worked back to the center. Not a voice was lifted in encouragement, while his antagonist was heartened with applause, suggestions, and warnings. (Ibid, p. 45).

And in the final stages of the struggle, when Mackenzie is winning, the true son of the wolf emerges:

At first he felt compassion for his enemy; but this fled before the primal instinct of life, which in turn gave way to the lust of slaughter. The ten thousand years of culture fell from him, and he was a cave-dweller, doing battle for his female. (Ibid, p. 45-46).

The atavism in Mackenzie is yet a latent characteristic of the “civilized” man. Precisely the same theory is propounded in the death of the two survivors in “In a Far Country,” for when at last they have been overcome by the White Silence (environment) their true nature is evident: “What with the Fear of the North, the mental strain, the ravages of the disease, they lost all semblance of humanity, taking on the appearance of wild beasts, hunted and desperate.”6 Thus the survival tendency is pictured as inherent, as animal instinct. The implicit materialism in this view of a biological assumption is the central idea also in “Jan, the Unrepentant” in the same collection. Having been found guilty of killing a man, Jan flees, and during the pursuit his instinct for survival seems to give him courage:

Jan ran blindly, reckoning not of the way of his feet, for he was mastered by the verb "to live." To live! To exist! Buck flashed gray through the air, but missed. The man struck madly at him, and stumbled. Then the white teeth of Bright closed on his mackinaw jacket, and he pitched into the snow. To live! To exist! He fought wildly as ever, the centre of a tossing heap of men and dogs. (Ibid, p. 347).

This ubiquitous survival thesis takes on protean forms in London's early stories. For examples, not only is man forced to do battle with nature, with animals, with other white men to survive, the Red Man also provides added challenge. Though the Red Man-White Man encounters are given trite portrayal in London's stories, the central significance is in providing for another dimension of the survival themes. In “God of His Fathers,” whose setting we have noted earlier, the struggle is intensely dramatized in a familiar naturalistic pattern. Hay Stockard, a white man, hopes to live in the Yukon. But his arch-enemy, Baptise the Red (an Indian), will not let him, primarily because Baptise wants Stockard to admit that there is no God. An open struggle is precipitated by the appearance of Sturges Owen, a missionary priest. Stockard, married to an Indian girl who is now the mother of his child, and Baptise are continuing their debate when Owen arrives. Baptise refuses to let Owen preach to him, though he is willing for the priest to pass safely through the country. Owen is adamant: he will stay and preach to the "heathen." Though he despises Owen, Stockard vacillates between his desire to let the priest be killed and his inclination to help defend him against Baptise. It is Owen, the cowardly priest, whom London disparages, for in the battle — a futile one in which the wife, the child, and several others are killed — Owen muses on his materialistically-oriented impulse to live in the knowledge of the martyrdom he could achieve. There is little that is admirable in Owen's death; in fact, the story's ending seems to imply that the priest has been foolish in dying for a cause which apparently means very little to him except as it will bring him some personal glory.

The most original aspect of the struggle between the White Man and the Red Man as introduced in these first stories is London's belief in the superiority of the White, Anglo-Saxon race. This thesis, which is a dominate and pervasive one in all London's later fiction, is proclaimed as part of the survival theory. While not Darwinian in origin, the theory is at least Darwinistic, stressing the survival of the species as it adapts to its environment. Scruff Mackenzie, the son of the wolf, is the first character in London's fiction to voice the belief in white supremacy. After Mackenzie has won his mate, he proudly proclaims that his “people  .   .   . are the mightiest of all the peoples, who rule all the lands .   .   .   .”7 And the corollary law of the wolf is “whoso taketh the life of one wolf, the forfeit shall ten of his people pay.” (Ibid.)

While the theme is merely hinted at in Mackenzie's brief statement, London uses one entire story to focus on his concept. In “The Great Interrogation” Karen Sayther is London's spokesman for the “new” civilization, for the Anglo-Saxon. Ostensibly Mrs. Sayther has left a comfortable estate in the city to come to the Yukon on an unknown errand. The “interrogation” into which the citizens of the territory are drawn is in wondering why Karen has come. It is shortly revealed that before her sudden marriage to the late Colonel Sayther, Karen had been engaged to David Paine, the hero of the story. She now lives with an Indian maiden and is caught in the matrix of deciding between the two ways of life. He recognizes that Karen has earlier deserted him for Colonel Sayther's money: the materialistic ideals of civilization were evident in the Colonel. Paine thinks of this, wondering, “What was he? A great, gross, material creature, deaf to song, blind to beauty, dead to the spirit. He was fat with laziness, and flabby-cheeked, and the round of his belly witnessed his gluttony—.”8 But Karen dismisses David's charges and pleads with him on the basis of their anthropological ties.

Come, Dave, you must see. She is not your kind. There is no race affinity. She is an aborigine, sprung from the soil, yet close to the soil, and impossible to lift from the soil. Born savage, savage she will die. But we—you and I—the dominant, evolved race--the salt of the earth and the masters thereof! We are made for each other. The supreme call is of kind, and we are of kind. Reason and feeling dictate it. Your very instinct demands it. That you cannot deny. You cannot escape the generations behind you. Yours is an ancestry which has survived for a thousand centuries, and for a hundred thousand centuries, and your line must not stop here. It cannot. Your ancestry will not permit it. Instinct is stronger than the will. The race is mightier than you. Come, Dave, let us go. (Ibid., pp. 56-57)

David then considers the alternatives, civilization or the primitive North:

His bleak life rose up and smote him,—the vain struggle with pitiless forces; the dreary years of frost and famine; the harsh and jarring contact with elemental life; the aching void which mere animal existence could not fill. And there, seduction by his side, whispering of brighter, warmer lands, of music, light, and joy, called the old times back again. He visioned it unconsciously. Faces rushed in upon him; glimpses of forgotten scenes, memories of merry hours; strains of song and trills of laughter —.

“Come, Dave, Come,” Karen said. “I have for both. The way is soft.”

She was in his arms, trembling, and he held her tightly. He rose to his feet . . . But the snarling of hungry dogs, and the shrill cries of Winapie bringing about peace between the combatants, came muffled to his ear through the heavy logs. And another scene flashed before him. A struggle in the forest,—a bald-face grizzly, broken-legged, terrible; the snarling of the dogs and the shrill cries of Winapie as she urged them to the attack; himself in the midst of the crush, breathless, panting, striving to hold off red death; broken-backed, entrail-ripped dogs howling in impotent anguish and desecrating the snow; the virgin white running scarlet with the blood of man and beast; the bear, ferocious, irresistible, crunching, crunching down to the core of his life. . . .(Ibid., p. 57)

While the final outcome of the story argues not for a victory for the “dominate, evolved race” (since David chooses not to return with Karen), London still asserts that the Anglo-Saxon species has evolved to its superiority through its struggle for survival. In a later story in Children of the Frost, written in this first period of his career also, London pictures Avery Von Brunt as he nears an Indian village with the same Anglo-Saxon consciousness: “He, alone, was full-blooded Saxon, and his blood was pounding fiercely through his veins to the traditions of his race. Clive and Hastings, Drake and Raleigh, Hengest and Horsa, walked with him.”9

But London is not content with asserting the white supremacy through the voice of his white men; he must also depict the Red Man's coming to the same conclusion. Thus the “Law of Life” for an old Indian chieftain, Koskoosh, is that a Darwinian biological concept explains the way of all flesh and the evils visited upon it. In a resigned mood of despair, Koskoosh laments his defeat:

It was the law of all flesh. Nature was not kindly to the flesh. She had no concern for that concrete thing called the individual. Her interest lay in the species, the race. This was the deepest abstraction old Koskoosh's barbaric mind was capable of, but he grasped it firmly. He saw it exemplified in all life. The rise of the sap, the bursting greenness of the willow bud, the fall of the yellow leaf — in this alone was told the whole history. (Ibid., p. 33)

The “law” is, of course, the “natural” law of the white man's supremacy. Another grand old chieftain comes to precisely the same conclusion about natural selection. In “The League of Old Men,” Imber tells a white man's court of his attempts to eradicate the white man before he destroyed Imber's civilization. In the end Imber's people are defeated, for it is the “Anglo-Saxon who have the custom of . . . giving the law to conquered peoples, and oft-times this law is harsh.” (Ibid., p. 143) At last unable to fight because of his age, Imber has come to the city to tell his story and to acknowledge the “law.” He laments, “I am very old, and very tired, and it being vain fighting the Law, as thou sayest. . . .I am come seeking the Law.” (Ibid., pp. 159-160) The white man's law fuses again with the laws of nature in Imber's dim mind as he sits in rapturous contemplation of the inevitable forces that control his life:

But Imber was dreaming. The square-browed judge likewise dreamed, and all his race rose up before him in a mighty phantasmagoria — his steel-shod, mail-clad race, the lawgiver and world-maker among the families of men. He saw it dawn red-flickering across the dark forests and sullen seas; he saw it blaze, bloody and red, to full and triumphant noon; and down the shaded slope he saw the blood-red sands dropping into night. And through it all he observed the Law, pitiless and potent, ever unswerving and ever ordaining, greater than the motes of men who fulfilled it or were crushed by it, even as it was greater than he, his heart speaking for softness. (Ibid., p. 160)

In these stories London asserts the Kiplingesque myth of the superior White Race, but he also adapts it to a naturalistic framework. For the survival thesis is clearly Darwinian in import. Too, the tone in which the survival and natural selection principles are adumbrated is obviously naturalistic. In “The Men of Forty Mile,” for example, London explains that life in general is explainable in terms of a deterministic framework. In the story the same Scruff Mackenzie is a central figure in a brief struggle with another white man. It is the Malemute Kid, however, who glibly voices a naturalistic assumption in noting that men should understand that life itself is a gamble, a kind of game with no predictable outcome. Thus after attempting unsuccessfully to settle an argument between two men, the Kid concludes: “So you see we do not actually take away the privilege of fighting; and yet I don't believe they'll fight when they see the beauty of the scheme. Life's a game, and men the gamblers.”10 Furthermore, London adheres to the technique he has outlined before when in the same stories he depicts the Indians expressing the same kind of pessimism in reacting to a deterministic pattern of survival. Sitka Charley, the Indian hero who appears in many of the tales of this early period, tells of his taking a long journey with a white man and woman. Ostensibly, the story is about “The Grit of Woman,” but it finally develops into a philosophical soliloquy in which Charley muses on the deterministic orientation of the universe. The plot, a typical one for London, concerns a white man's great love for his Indian squaw and their many years of hardship in the north. But the couple is finally to be defeated by nature, and the narrative centers around their demise, described in language reminiscent of the meaning of “The White Silence.” In the story both the hero and his wife are overcome by their environment. But before the narrator dies, he asserts the pessimist's creed: life, which must be viewed materialistically, is futile and meaningless:

Life is a strange thing. Much have I thought on it, and pondered long, yet daily the strangeness of it grows not less, but more. Why this longing for Life? It is a game which no man wins. To live is to toil hard, and to suffer sore, till Old Age creeps heavily upon us and we throw down our hands on the cold ashes of dead fires. It is hard to live. In pain the babe sucks his first breath, in pain the old man gasps his last, and all his days are full of trouble and sorrow; yet he goes down to the open arms of Death, stumbling, falling, with head turned backward, fighting to the last. And Death is kind. It is only Life, and the things of Life that hurt. Yet we love Life, and we hate Death.11

What is not accomplished in Charley's statement is captured in fuller measure in the clearest philosophical statement of determinism in the early stories. Like Malemute Kid's earlier declaration that life is a game, Fortune La Perle, the protagonist of “Which Make Men Remember”, comes to the same pessimistic conclusion. Fortune, who is accused of murdering John Randolph, is befriended by Uri Bram. Uri hides Fortune from authorities, and while spending the many days waiting to come out of hiding, the outlaw meditates on his destiny. Obviously allegorizing the man's name for thematic impact, London portrays Fortune as feeling that Fortune's own account of how he came to murder Randolph is enunciated in classic deterministic terms.

All worked out, every bit of it, all parts fitting snug. Before I was born, like as not. I'll put the sack I never hope to get on it, before I was born. That's why. (Ibid., p. 83)

Finally, Uri and Fortune decide to draw cards to see who will shoot first in a duel through which Bram seeks to revenge his friend, Randolph. London, the naturalistic cynic, disparaging traditional Christian concepts, shows his cynicism in arranging the unusual denouement in which Bram seeks the revenge. The duel is set, with long ardent statements from Bram on the virtues of justice and on the virtues of his friend Randolph whose great name must be avenged. But Fortune's god is quite different from Bram's: “He did not know much concerning Uri's God, but he believed in Chance.” And as they draw cards, Fortune feels that surely “Chance (will) not desert him now.” The narrator (London) tells the reader, “Chance had been very good to him (Fortune) already . . . and if he tricked now he would have to pay for it afterward.” (Ibid., p. 84) But Fortune loses the draw and is killed. As he dies, the fatalist succumbs amid London's refrain: “Fortune did not whirl, but gay San Francisco dimmed and faded; and as the sun-bright snow turned blacker and blacker, he breathed his last malediction on the Chance he had misplayed.” (Ibid., p. 85)

The women in London's early stories constitute an integral part of the total view of life in the northland. Not insignificantly London's first novel, also written during this period, centers around a woman. Because of the encompassing manner in which London explores the many avenues through which his naturalism can be expressed, he was wise not to discard the role of woman in these adventure tales. Importantly, then, a superior type of woman is needed to cope with the rigorous life demanded by the environment. A review of the tales already discussed indicates that the role of woman is a central one. In “The White Silence” the woman successfully fights off the pack until Malemute returns; in “The Son of the Wolf” Scruff's squaw is pictured as a sturdy and courageous woman; in “The God of His Fathers” the Indian wife of Stockard gladly dies for her white husband; in “The Great Interrogation” David Paine chooses to remain in the wilderness with his Indian maiden; and in “The Grit of Women” the courage and fidelity of women are emphasized. It may be noted parenthetically that London's alleged disdain for the Red Man is not borne out in a reading of these early stories. The Indian women, particularly, are consistently presented in a courageous and honorable light. Not unexpectedly, then, London advances a theory which also exalts the heroism of a white woman. In the “Priestly Prerogative” his first naturalistic “new woman” enters the scene. In the story, the “new woman” is Grace Bentham. Grace, the wife of Edwin Bentham, has come with her husband to the Yukon territory. Both had been reared in the city and thus are tenderfeet, until Grace sees that in order to survive she must take charge of the family affairs. Eventually, by Grace's clever maneuvering of their money, her buying of land, and her strict urging and directing Edwin to push farther north, the couple emerge wealthy. The “new woman” motif is announced in London's description of Grace's efficiency:

This was the woman who urged and encouraged her husband in his Northland quest, who broke trail for him when no one was looking, and cried in secret over her weakling woman's body. So journeyed this strangely assorted couple down to old Fort Selkirk, then through fivescore miles of dismal wilderness to Stuart River. And when the short day left them, and the man lay down in the snow and blubbered, it was the woman who lashed him to the sled, bit her lips with the pain of her aching limbs, and helped the dog haul him to Malemute Kid's cabin.12

Her greatest energies are then directed in earning a fortune for them:

This is what Grace Bentham proceeded to do. Arriving in Dawson with a few pounds of flour and several letters of introduction, she at once applied herself to the task of pushing her big baby to the fore. It was she who melted the stony heart and wrung credit from the rude barbarian who presided over the destiny of the P. C. Company . . . . It was she who studied maps, and catechised miners, and hammered geography and locations into his hollow head, till everybody marveled at his broad grasp of the country and knowledge of its conditions. . . .

She did the work; he got the credit and reward. (Ibid.)

The “priestly prerogative” is made by a priest in the camp who discovers that Grace is in love with a close friend of the Benthams and plans to leave the Yukon country with him. The priest decides not to tell Edwin, assuring Grace that if she returns and remains faithful to Edwin her secret will always remain with her confessor. In general, the story epitomizes the materialistic aims which all the big fortune-seekers had in coming to the Yukon. Their lives, their hearts, and their souls are at stake in their desire to become rich and to “survive” on a larger scale than their neighbors. Yet the kind of survival which Jack London explores in these early stories was expressed primarily in terms of animal instinct, with an occasional hint of race survival, both views stressing that the species was strengthened by the emergence of the winner. In the study of Grace Bentham, London indicates his early fascination with the strong, Amazon-like woman who became one of his dominate character types in later novels.

Henry S. Commager has well noted London's characteristic position in these early stories, as well as in much of the later fiction:

Of all those who applied the doctrine of the survival of the fittest to human society, Jack London was the most enthusiastic and the most naive; it is suggestive that he was, also, the most widely read, at home and abroad. . . .London translated Darwin into the vernacular, presented it in a guise so romantic, boisterous, and extravagant that it proved irresistible; he wrote it up in dime novels and purveyed it as literature and philosophy. The stuff of his endless adventure stories was dredged up from his own fabulous career as newsboy, oyster pirate, tramp, sailor, prospector, and rancher; the philosophy was laid on like ornamental scrollwork on Eastlake buildings. London read Spencer and Haeckel and took the struggle for existence to be but a prophecy of his own struggle with the thugs of the San Francisco waterfront; he read Nietzsche and imagined himself a Superman. Science and philosophy conspired to explain his career and justify his fiction.13

To make these first stories superior in artistry, London buttressed both action and philosophical comment with a setting that complemented the tone and theme. Thus they achieve coherence and meaning despite Commager's claim that the philosophy is ornamental. What these stories portend is a pattern of naturalistic thought that permeates the greater part of all of Jack London's writing after 1902.

Source: Jack London Newsletter. Vol. 6. No. 1. (Jan. - April, 1973): 1-12.

 1  Jack London, Best Short Stories of Jack London (New York: Garden City Books, 1953), p. 13.
 2  Jack London, The Call of the Wild, The Cruise of the Dazzler, And Other Stories of Adventure (New York: Platt and Munk, 1960), p. 452.
 3  Jack London, The God of His Fathers (New York: McClure, Phillips, Co., 1902), pp. 1-2.
 4  London, Best Short Stories, p. 7.
 5  Jack London, The Son of the Wolf, Tales of the Far North (New York: Arco Publications, 1962), p. 28.
 6  London, Stories of Adventure, p. 452.
 7  London, The Son of the Wolf, p. 44.
 8  London, The God of His Fathers, pp. 52-53.
 9  Jack London, Children of the Frost (London: Arco Publications, 1963), pp. 12-13. Except for Taine's almost metaphorical assertion of the superiority of the French, no other naturalist has asserted a similar theory. Indeed, the American naturalists were wont to demonstrate that the human species was in no way superior to other species, that man was merely an animal of a higher order. London also preaches this simple biological theory time and time again. Thus his attempts to assert on the one hand a racial superiority and on the other an implicit atavism not only confuse his philosophy but also necessitate a stricter qualification of the degree of London's affinity with the naturalistic movement. If London's use of the concept is to be considered naturalistic, one feels that he is on the periphery of the movement rather than in the mainstream. The only justification that can be made for inclusion of the motif here is on the basis of London's belief that the Anglo-Saxon race had evolved through centuries of struggle to become the dominate race. Aside from the fiction, see his statements in the Kempton-Wace Letters (p. 9, 54). See also Joan London's reports of the numerous occasions in which her father discussed his race views.
10  London, Stories of Adventure, p. 480.
11  London, The God of His Fathers, pp. 176-177. London's pessimism sprang from multiple sources, part of which was genuine and part of which was a literary device in imitation of Schopenhauer.
12  London, The Son of the Wolf, p. 99.
13  Henry S. Commager, The American Mind (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950), p. 110.

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