Jack London's Strong Truths

By James I. McClintock | Go to book overview

Chapter III
THE MALEMUTE KID

Jack London's quest for a form, technique and philosophy of composition was characterized by his desire to present truth in the most forceful manner. In his moments of self-characterization, he thought of himself foremost as a truth-seeker and a public educator and, secondarily, as an artist. He mastered the rudiments of short story form and technique and assimilated Spencer's philosophy of composition, which had as a premise that the forceful communication of ideas and emotions was the primary function of fiction.

The forceful truth London wanted to demonstrate to the world was that life-giving values could be operative in a deathdealing environment, that ideals could triumph over actuality. Consequently, upon the cosmically cold, pulseless and deterministic "primary truth" embodied in the Northland landscape, he superimposed a more optimistic, idealistic order of truth-- "secondary truth," he would later call it. In Barleycorn he writes of secondary truth:

This is the order of truth that obtains, not for the universe, but for the live things in it if they for a little space will endure ere they pass. This order of truth . . . is the sane and normal order of truth, the rational order of truth that life must believe in order to live . . .

What is good is true. And this is the order of truth . . . that man must know and guide his actions by, with unswerving certitude that in the universe no other order can obtain (p. 308).

The "whisper" in Barleycorn hints the truths from the

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