This is an event hosted by Jenny at TakeMeAway . It is a weekly (though I've not been that regular lately) corner to write about good reads from the past. Those books we so much loved and we don't want to forget.
JACK LONDON , whose real name was John Griffith London, is another of those stories that hooked me when I read them first time and it has become part of my literary roots. It’s another of those stories about an extraordinary young person I like reading with / to my students. It’s the story of a young sailor and labourer who has a great dream, to become a part of the wealthy bourgeoisie, to belong to those people who led a high-thinking life.
Inspired by the college-educated society girl Ruth Morse he starts self – educating himself. Knowledge and writing become his obsessions. Martin becomes a writer at last and expresses in his works the views upon life he has learnt from his reading of Spencer. However, only Russ Brissenden - a leftist poet based upon George Sterling - sees the value of his work. When he seems to grasp the fulfillment of his dream, he loses Ruth, now his fiancée , who does not value anything that is not "established" and sees him as a failure because magazines will not publish his writing and because he has become notorious for being a socialist although those accusations are untrue.
The story sees Martin achieve fame at last but not happiness and gratification: he doesn’t belong to the world he aspired to nor he belongs any longer to his own class either . Some elements of the novel hint at autobiography on the part of London who was also a sailor.
Anyway, in the general revaluation of London’s work, Martin Eden has taken a significant place. Its force and appeal have survived the passage of time.
What are the features of this story or of its protagonist which give the book such force and appeal?
I think in this novel Jack London conveys himself, his superhuman effort not to be sucked back into the deep well of society, his extreme tension toward a life of the spirit, his solitary choice - stubborn and misunderstood – to become a writer, his illusion to be able to challenge - he alone - the whole of society and his final unavoidable failure. He didn't fail, his hero does. But who knows? Not always being successful corresponds to being happy.
All that makes Martin Eden a very contemporary hero to me, beyond space and time. Despite his failure, or just because of it.