Jack London's Strong Truths

By James I. McClintock | Go to book overview

Chapter I
FINDING THE PROPER TREND
OF LITERARY ART: 1898-1902

In the summer of 1898, Jack London, just returned from a sixteen month trip to the Klondike and beset by family and financial responsibilities, committed himself to an energetic apprenticeship in the art of the short story. The apprenticeship appeared to be short and successful: a little more than six months later in January, 1899, he published his first Northland story, "To the Man on Trail."1 Actually, however, this six month period was just a furiously eclectic initial stage in his apprenticeship, and he continued his study of the short story form and technique for several years. This continuing and more directed and controlled quest for an adequate form is evidenced in the changes seen in his first three collections of Alaskan stories: The Son of the Wolf ( 1901), The God of His Fathers ( 1901) and Children of the Frost ( 1902).2

Between the apprenticeship years 1898 and 1902, London accomplished several things: he studied the magazines to learn what subject matter was finding a market and what techniques and forms would be suitable for his purposes. Kipling was at that time the most widely heralded short fiction writer, and London studied that writer's methods and appropriated them as his own. The direction in Kipling's fiction, and that of the magazine stories in general, was towards dramatic short stories, a direction found in London's own stories during the first four years of his career. In addition, through Kipling's example and

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