Literary Allusion: Jack London

Marlin Mitchem, Period 1

Early Years: John Chaney

Journalist and author John "Jack London" Griffith Chaney was born on January 12, 1876, in San Francisco, California. His mother, Flora Wellman, was an unwed mother, and his father, William Chaney, an attorney, journalist and pioneering leader in the new field of American astrology. Sadly, his father was never part of his life, and his mother ended up marrying John London, a Civil War veteran.

His life as a writer essentially began in 1893. After winning a 25$ writing contest for his story about his voyage that year, he decided to dedicate his life to writing. In 1899, he began publishing stories in the Overland Monthly. This experience of writing and getting published greatly disciplined London as a writer. In 1900 London married Bess Maddern. The couple had two daughters together, Joan and Bess. In 1905, following his divorce from Bess, London married Charmian Kittredge, whom he remained with. Unfortunately, London faced many health problems, one being kidney disease. This disease took his life on November 22, 1916, at his California ranch home.

Excerpt: Call of The Wild- Published in 1903

That night Buck faced the great problem of sleeping. The tent, illumined by a candle, glowed warmly in the midst of the white plain; and when he, as a matter of course, entered it, both Perrault and Francois bombarded him with curses and cooking utensils, till he recovered from his consternation and fled ignominiously into the outer cold. A chill wind was blowing that nipped him sharply and bit with especial venom into his wounded shoulder. He lay down on the snow and attempted to sleep, but the frost soon drove him shivering to his feet. Miserable and disconsolate, he wandered about among the many tents, only to find that one place was as cold as another. Here and there savage dogs rushed upon him, but he bristled his neck-hair and snarled (for he was learning fast), and they let him go his way unmolested. 2 Finally an idea came to him. He would return and see how his own teammates were making out. To his astonishment, they had disappeared. Again he wandered about through the great camp, looking for them, and again he returned. Were they in the tent? No, that could not be, else he would not have been driven out. Then where could they possibly be? With drooping tail and shivering body, very forlorn indeed, he aimlessly circled the tent. Suddenly the snow gave way beneath his fore legs and he sank down. Something wriggled under his feet. He sprang back, bristling and snarling, fearful of the unseen and unknown. But a friendly little yelp reassured him, and he went back to investigate. A whiff of warm air ascended to his nostrils, and there, curled up under the snow in a snug ball, lay Billee. He whined placatingly, squirmed and wriggled to show his good will and intentions, and even ventured, as a bribe for peace, to lick Buck's face with his warm wet tongue. 3 Another lesson. So that was the way they did it, eh? Buck confidently selected a spot, and with much fuss and waste effort proceeded to dig a hole for himself. In a trice the heat from his body filled the confined space and he was asleep. The day had been long and arduous, and he slept soundly and comfortably, though he growled and barked and wrestled with bad dreams. Read the excerpt from Call of the Wild and answer the questions. 4 Nor did he open his eyes till roused by the noises of the waking camp. At first he did not know where he was. It had snowed during the night and he was completely buried. The snow walls pressed him on every side, and a great surge of fear swept through him—the fear of the wild thing for the trap. It was a token that he was harking back through his own life to the lives of his forebears; for he was a civilized dog, an unduly civilized dog, and of his own experience knew no trap and so could not of himself fear it. The muscles of his whole body contracted spasmodically and instinctively, the hair on his neck and shoulders stood on end, and with a ferocious snarl he bounded straight up into the blinding day, the snow flying about him in a flashing cloud. Ere he landed on his feet, he saw the white camp spread out before him and knew where he was and remembered all that had passed from the time he went for a stroll with Manuel to the hole he had dug for himself the night before. 5 A shout from Francois hailed his appearance. "Wot I say?" the dog-driver cried to Perrault. "Dat Buck for sure learn queek as anyt'ing." 6 Perrault nodded gravely. As courier for the Canadian Government, bearing important dispatches, he was anxious to secure the best dogs, and he was particularly gladdened by the possession of Buck.

Where is he mentioned in "Into The Wild"?

  • Chpt. 5: "The dominate primordial beast was strong in Buck, and under the fierce conditions of trail life, it grew an grew. Yet it was a secret growth. His newborn cunning gave him poise and control."-London
Alex(Chris) Supertramp; Commentary- All hail the dominate primordial beast! And Captain Ahab too! May, 1992.

Fun Fact !

A colorful, controversial personality, London was often in the news. Generally fun loving, he was quick to side with the underdog against injustice of any kind. An eloquent public speaker, he was much sought after as a lecturer on socialism and other economic and political topics. Strikingly handsome, full of laughter, restless and courageous, always eager for adventure, Jack London was one of the most romantic figures of this time.