16 July 2006

The Uberdog on Animal Farm
Jack London calls forth a two-sided critical response. He is acknowledged as an admitted socialist, yet his work is also often commented upon for its fierce strain of individualism. While London's portrayal of nature in a realistic manner can be seen as something organically American, it has intellectual roots in the European philosophy of Nietzsche and Spencer.

My intention is to, using London's own work, explore the implications of these two contradictory strains in his work. Call of the Wild will serve as a basis for examining the individualism he derived from his reading; his socialistic pamphlettering provides material for examining the society he thought men should build.

These two strains of thought seem bound to clash. In a communal society, the needs of the individual are subordinate to the needs of society as a whole. This does not preclude outstanding achievement by the most gifted, but in spite of taking from each according to ability, it only rewards according to need. The individualist can no longer obey the law of club and fang, taking what is desired because the taking is possible. While such brutal measures may be necessary on the way to a Socialist state, what is then to become of them?

If Call of the Wild is read as an allegory, as it often is, we can see what happens when the superior individual, Buck, is turned loose on society. London provides two contrasting societies for Buck: the sled teams, and the wolf pack. This paper will examine how London's individualism plays out in these two setting, which correspond to capitolistic and socialistic societies. Thus, the book will provide evidence of London's sense of the individual, and of his interpretation of the individual in society.


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