The idea of peaceful rebellion through nature is the basis for many books. Kipling was one of the first one to do it through many of his novels, but Jack London got a lot deeper into that concept. He was born in 1876 in San Francisco, an illegitimate child born to a single woman, but his mother did marry a man named John London, and named her son John London. This family moved a lot, but ended up in San Francisco again where John London, now known as Jack London worked in the bay patrol.
Jack was one of the first ones to go to Alaska in the time of gold rush, he did not get rich with gold, but he recorded the Alaskan life and put it in his books. The series of books about Alaskan life are some of his most known works, such as “The Son of the Wolf” and White Fang, in which Jack London portrays the similar themes of the hard life in Alaska, the learning experience of men and animals, and the lifelong fight for survival. Oh what a hard life it was in Alaska. But why would anyone go there if it was so hard, one might ask.
Well it was the gold rush of eighteen ninety eight, many looked north for a way to get rich easy, some looked for adventures, but there were not many of those. Jack London portrays the hard lives of the adventurers who went to the Klondike River valley for gold, but got a lot more than they burgeoned for. In one of the stories, from a collection called “The Son of the Wolf”, Jack London described a mad hunt for gold. A person enters the yet innocent soil, near a stream, and as soon as he does, starts digging hungrily for gold.
He finds some, but not even enough to keep, so he throws it away. He works without food for many hours, so engulfed by his task, that he doesn’t even see that it’s dark. This continues for several days, until he finds a lot of gold, by then the valley looks line a minefield. While digging he is shot in the back by a thief, but so overtaken by greed, he manages to beat his assassin down and kill him. And what’s ironic, he wouldn’t even touch a deer, but as his treasure is threatened to be taken away from him, he kills a person.
That is the genius of Jack London, he experienced those feelings of betrayal during his two years in Alaska, and is able to put them on paper with such accuracy, that the feeling of deception is transferred to the reader. But that wasn’t the only book where hard Alaskan life is show. In the novel, White Fang, Jack London describes the life and struggles of a wolf, throughout his life. Alaska is not a plentiful region, especially in winter, which lasts for 7 months of the year. ” ‘Love of Life’ is a study of hunger, strongly written, and had it’s meed of praise when it appeared in a popular magazine” (Marchard, 419).
It is hard to find a single rabbit, and the hero of the story has to constantly fight the hunger that he experiences for weeks at a time. Even when he was a young cub, and didn’t know the world beyond the walls of the cave he was born in, his siblings died of a long hunger, caused by the death of their father. “The she wolf could not provide for her children at some periods of their childhood, and the young wolf which latter came to be known as White Fang was the only one to survive:” (New York Times, 103).
At the times like these the best source of food would have to be the passing through humans, and their dogs, who could be the dinner of a whole pack of wolves “:how man die of starvation, how dogs deport themselves in the night” (Patte, 119). The coldness contributed to the hard life, as it was, to keep warm, a body needs fuel, or food, so a wolf that could not get food fast enough died a terrible death “:the fierce howls of starving wolfdogs:” (Eames, 422).
The life, which Jack London describes in the two books, is told in remarkable detail, the reader is the wolf or the human freezing and dying of hunger, or at least knows what is going through the character’s head. Jack London’s writing convinces the reader that everything in the story is probably true, that’s what makes him so great. One of the most unique traits of Jack London’s books is that he somehow gets into the mind of the main character, either human or animal, to help the reader understand the character better.
In another story from “The Son of the Wolf”, a man has to cope with the death of his partner, and his partner’s wife has to learn to kill, to protect herself from the sharp teeth of the wolves. The harsh fact of life in Alaska is that everyone looses a friend, either to the coldness, hunger, or wolves, and has to cope with the loss. Others, who work alone, attain a such distorted mind that they are ready to murder for a piece of gold that is worth a measly ten dollars, not even enough to get back home.
Learning to kill becomes a necessity, in order to survive, either kill for food or protection, or be killed out greed, or hunger “The she-wolf turns wolf against wolf untill the weaker ones fall, reddening the snow in the ‘sex tragegy of the natural world’, which inevitably leads to socialization and the family” (Manfeild, 91). The same thing happens in the White Fang, where this young wolf, used to protection from his mother, is left in the wild on his own “:White Fang learns to cope when his mother is taken away from him:” (Votter, 259).
Not only he has to cope with the loss of a loved one, but also he learns to kill to survive “In the opening act the she-wolf acts as a decoy to draw dogs away from camp, so the wolves in her pack can attack” (Mansfield, 91). Jack London describes White Fang’s first kill, oh how satisfying it was “The natural instict tells him what to do in the case of vvsevere hunger:” (Mansfield, 93). The warm blood of a just killed bird filling his little mouth, the torn flesh of the animal scattered around him, not only the cub is proud of his accomplishment, but he also receives great pleasure from the rush of the fight and killing.
Even though his mother is not with him any more, he is in such denial that he leaves a piece of the bird for his mother, who will never sink its fangs into it. When the cub is left by the humans, he is scared, and wants to come back, but it’s too late, they have moved. Again, the cub feels abandoned, and has to cope with the loss of his two – legged “gods” and protectors, and the idea of being all – alone in the cold world of his ancestors Whoever would live under those conditions, had to fight for survival.
Jack London describes a character, from one of the stories from “The Son of the Wolf”, who had to struggle all his life to survive in the rugged Alaska. He fought animals, to not be eaten, and humans, not to be killed of greed. Just like White Fang, the main character of White Fang, had to fight all his life for survival. At first it were small things like birds, and small predators, to puppies, to bulldogs, and cold and hunger. The fight never stopped, just after his birth he had to fight extreme coldness and hunger.
After being adopted by humans, the only problems he had is fighting off the pack of puppies just like him, who for some reason did not like the newcomer. Then, after years of fighting the nature, he has to fight a bulldog for sport, to entertain his master humans. It never stopped, a price had to be paid for living in such extreme and savage environment. Jack London portrays that environment of constant hostility with remarkable accuracy.
In “The Son of the Wolf and White Fang, Jack London portrays the similar themes of the hard life in Alaska, the learning experience of men and animals, and the lifelong fight for survival. His descriptions of nature, and of the human or animal mind are legendary. But the most fascinating part of his books is how he knows the nature and the behavior of the animals of Alaska, and of Klondike turns a human into an animal. The reader can almost smell the thirst for blood of the portrayed animals, and some man too. Jack London shows the peaceful rebellion in his books.