Jack London's Strong Truths

By James I. McClintock | Go to book overview

Chapter IV
ALASKAN NIGHTMARE AND
ARTISTIC SUCCESS: 1898-1908

It has been shown that the fundamental philosophical assumption behind the characterization of the Malemute Kid as he is presented in "The Men of Forty-Mile," "The Priestly Prerogative," and "The Wife of a King," the least artistic of the stories in The Son of the Wolf, is that man can master his fate by rationally comprehending the ways of men and the cosmos. He is at home in the "new land," a citizen of the Northland, and can "see it all around." He is a protector of the American Dream.

Most casual critics and some London scholars discuss the entire London canon of fiction as if, at its base, it merely reflects the American Dream that all inevitably leads to individual mastery and social perfection. For them the idealized Malemute Kid must represent the most important aspects of London's thought and fiction. Abraham Rothberg writes in "The House That Jack Built" that:

Actually, [ London] was committed to an earlier heritage of absolutist ethics fundamental to the thinking of the mid-19th century. These ideas were derived chiefly from 18th-century ideas of nature and moral law. Here nature was favorable to man rather than indifferent or hostile; the concept of historical development was both progressive and optimistic rather than retrogressive and pessimistic; rather than a view of life in which man's nature is conceived of as beastly and irrational operating in a completely determined fashion,

-79-

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