Nov 16, 2020 in Literature

Jack London

Naturalism in The Man with the Gash

Jack London was one of the first to trot down the path of naturalism. Naturalism is widely known as a literary movement that focuses on describing everyday reality and environment, which have a great impact upon a persons character. In fact, naturalism permeates most of Londons stories and has become his panache, when his work is easily recognized in the vast ocean of American fiction. The Man with the Gash is a vivid example of how external circumstances shape a persons character and trigger reactions which are hardly surprising in the long run.


Environment plays a crucial role in the story, accounting for the protagonists behavior and eventual downfall. The landscape of the Klondike shaped the destiny of all those who entered it (Jack London and Naturalism 1). The landscape shapes the destiny of Jacob Kent who is a typical hermit residing in the cabin far from the nearest settlement. He does not take pleasure in admiring nature around him but is focused on making profit. The sack with the gold dust is the chief bane of his existence (London 1). As he is constantly surrounded by people who stop by his cabin, Kent is tortured by the thought of theft and finds different places inside and outside his cabin to hide his treasure. However, severe weather conditions as well as little space inside the cabin leave Kent with not so many options. When he wakes up one day and finds that his sack has become lighter, he jumps at the conclusion of being robbed and wishes to punish the suspect, who is also his guest. Kent looks at what the circumstances suggest and refuses to appeal to logic or Jim Cardegees protests: there could be no other conclusion this Man with the Gash had now come in the flesh to dispossess him (London 1).

Nature in this story is important, but it is rather in the background as a passive player waiting for its hour of triumph: The fire fought a losing battle, and at last died away, while the frost penetrated the mossy chinks between the logs and chilled the inner atmosphere (London 1). London relies on human-related metaphors when describing nature: daylight laid its steel-gray fingers on the parchment window, the sun climbs (London 1), etc. in order to show that it can either help the characters or put obstacles in the way.

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The environment can give clues which can save a persons life. When Jim Cardegee is tied outside the cabin, he begins to pay attention to the clues. A person must cooperate with their environment if he/she wants to survive. He concludes that he lies upon the edge of the hole from which the dirt had been taken to roof Jacob Kents cabin (London 1), because men (humankind in general) would use what the nature has blessed them with and because a man is lazy (London 1). Cardegee did not lack knowledge about what to do to survive in wilderness in extreme weather conditions, and relying on his knowledge he started to press the ropes that bound him against the snow in order to make them stretch. He does not remain passive on the threshold of death. He is successful at reading the clues, and by a stroke of luck he miraculously avoids premature demise.

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Jack London contrasts two characters, mainly in their attitude to the outer circumstances. Kent yields to the obvious, refusing to investigate into the matter. The circumstances rob him not only of his precious gold sand but, most importantly, of peace with himself. From his perspective, everything that surrounds him should bring grist to his mill and his whole world shatters when he loses a small part of his profit. Cardegee, on the contrary, does not yield to the circumstances; he wishes to talk things over and does not give up at the verge of death. He makes the nature his ally, using its forces to save his life.

Naturalism in Jack Londons The Man with the Gash moves beyond the realistic account of the events, and it contributes to explaining the characters deeds and thoughts. The writer, in all probability, wants to demonstrate that circumstances can have a significant impact on peoples characters, but an attitude or, in other words, reaction to circumstances is always different.


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To Build a Fire: A Short Comparison of Two Versions

The most significant differences between Jack Londons versions of To Build a Fire relate to the protagonist, word count, the overall atmosphere, mood, and the use of irony. In the earlier version of 1902, the protagonist is named Tom Vincent, and he has many similarities with the writer. He is an embodiment of strenuous young manhood. In the later version, the protagonist is unknown and is distinguished by certain character traits. The second version of 1908 is considerably longer than the first one. The first version contains autobiographical implications, while the second one is not so straightforward and is saturated with the atmosphere of mystery. In the first version, mood is evoked through the writers comments, while in the second one mood is evoked through the manipulation of imagery and setting. The second version has a more elaborate wording as well as more examples of the use of irony. The writer adds the dogs perspective at the end of the second version of the story to show the ironic polarity of life and death. This conclusion has a more powerful impact on readers than the authors statement of the evident.


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