Martin Eden by Jack London 1909
Martin Eden (1909) is a novel by American author Jack London, about a struggling young writer. It was first serialized in the Pacific Monthly magazine from September 1908 to September 1909, and subsequently published in book form by The Macmillan Company in September 1909.
This book is a favorite among writers, who relate to Martin Eden's speculation that when he mailed off a manuscript, 'there was no human editor at the other end, but a mere cunning arrangement of cogs that changed the manuscript from one envelope to another and stuck on the stamps,' returning it automatically with a rejection slip.
While some readers believe there is some resemblance between them, an important difference between Jack London and Martin Eden is that Martin Eden rejects socialism (attacking it as 'slave morality'), and relies on a Nietzschean individualism. In a note to Upton Sinclair, Jack London wrote, "One of my motifs, in this book, was an attack on individualism (in the person of the hero). I must have bungled, for not a single reviewer has discovered it."
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 rough, uneducated 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 friends and family.
The novel ends with Martin Eden committing suicide by drowning, a detail which undoubtedly contributed to what researcher Clarice Stasz calls the 'biographical myth' that Jack London's own death was a suicide.
Joan London noted that "ignoring its tragic ending," the book is often regarded as "a 'success' story...which inspired not only a whole generation of young writers but other different fields who, without aid or encouragement, attained their objectives through great struggle.
Jack London (1876-1916), was an American author and a pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction. He was one of the first Americans to make a lucrative career exclusively from writing. London was self-educated. He taught himself in the public library, mainly just by reading books. In 1898, he began struggling seriously to break into print, a struggle memorably described in his novel, Martin Eden (1909). Jack London was fortunate in the timing of his writing career. He started just as new printing technologies enabled lower-cost production of magazines. This resulted in a boom in popular magazines aimed at a wide public, and a strong market for short fiction. In 1900, he made $2,500 in writing, the equivalent of about $75,000 today. His career was well under way. Among his famous works are: Children of the Frost (1902), The Call of the Wild (1903), The Sea Wolf (1904), The Game (1905), White Fang (1906), The Road (1907), Before Adam (1907), Adventure (1911), and The Scarlet Plague (1912).
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