Martin Eden

Topics: Social class, Friedrich Nietzsche, Marxism Pages: 9 (2423 words) Published: April 24, 2011
Martin Eden is Jack London’s semi-autobiographical novel, which gives a very vivid and detailed portrait of the hero, from an impoverished and uneducated sailor to a successful writer, who was inspired by the elegance and knowledge of the upper class girl Ruth and thereafter kept toiling himself in learning and writing and eventually got acclamation but meanwhile lost his hope in life and drowned himself in the sea. Jack London has read many philosophers’ works, among which Friedrich Nietzsche exerted a great influence upon him. Hence his Nietzschean character Martin Eden. A superman himself, Martin has a strong will to power, to transcend his laboring class, to win Ruth’s love for beauty’s sake, to show his contempt for the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie, to be the master herding the masses of slave morality, but after he achived what he pursued all the time ,he lost himself.It is Martin

's tragedy.



Key Words:class strugle  contrast  individualism  socialism  deaath


1 The introduction of  the author Jack London

Jack London (1876-1916), prolific American novelist and short story writer, whose works deal romantically with the overwhelming power of nature and the struggle for survival. His left-wing philosophy is seen in the class struggle novel The Iron Heel (1908).


Jack London was born on January 12, 1876, in San Francisco. He was deserted by his father, William Henry Chaney, and raised in Oakland by his mother Flora Wellman, a music teacher and spiritualist, and stepfather John London, whose surname he took. London's youth was marked by poverty. At the age of ten he became an avid reader, and borrowed books from the Oakland Public Library.


After leaving school at the age of 14, London worked as a seaman, rode in freight trains as a hobo and adopted socialistic views as a member of protest armies of the unemployed. In 1894 he was arrested in Niagara Falls and jailed for vagrancy. Without having much formal education, London educated himself in public libraries, and at the age of 19 gained admittance to the University of California at Berkeley. He had already started to write. For the remainder of 1898 London again tried to earn his living by writing. His early stories appeared in the Overland Monthly and the Atlantic Monthly. In 1900 he married Elisabeth Maddern, but left her and their two daughters three years afterwards, eventually to marry Charmian Kittredge.


All thsee experiences provid him with rich and practical materials for his creation. Just like Martin in Martin Eden who struggles to enter the so-called upper-class which confused him at last and led him to death.


2The plot summary of the novel Martin Eden

Living in Oakland at the dawn of the 20th century, Martin Eden struggles to rise far above his destitute circumstances through an intense and passionate pursuit of self-education in order to achieve a coveted place among the literary elite. The main driving force behind Martin Eden's efforts is his love for Ruth Morse. Because Eden is a sailor from a working class background, and the Morses are a bourgeois family, a union between them would be impossible until he reaches their level of wealth and perceived cultural, intellectual refinement.


Just before the literary establishment discovers Eden’s talents as a writer and lavishes him with the fame and fortune that he had incessantly promised Ruth (for the last two years) would come, she loses her patience and rejects him in a wistful letter: "if only you had settled down…and attempted to make something of yourself." When the publishers and the bourgeois - the very ones who shunned him - are finally at his feet, Martin has already begrudged them and become jaded by unrequited toil and love. Instead of enjoying his success, Eden retreats into a quiet indifference, only interrupted to mentally rail against the genteelness of bourgeois society or to donate his new wealth to working class...
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