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Jack London$
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Kenneth K. Brandt

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780746312964

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9780746312964.001.0001

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Individualism and its Discontents: The Sea-Wolf and Martin Eden

Individualism and its Discontents: The Sea-Wolf and Martin Eden

Chapter:
(p.75) 5 Individualism and its Discontents: The Sea-Wolf and Martin Eden
Source:
Jack London
Author(s):

Kenneth K. Brandt

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9780746312964.003.0005

This chapter offers a reading of London’s major sea novel, The Sea-Wolf, and his most celebrated semi-autobiographical novel, Martin Eden. The discussion of The Sea-Wolf focuses on the opposition of Wolf Larsen’s Nietzschean individualism and Humphrey Van Weyden’s collective idealism. This analysis focuses on the ways in which London uses Larsen’s anti-egalitarian materialism and Van Weyden’s more egalitarian idealism to orchestrate an effective and sensational war of ideas. Martin Eden also offers a critique of individualism, but his eponymous writer-hero emerges as a more ambiguous and sympathetic character. Unlike Larsen, Eden is generous and charitable in his social interactions, but his Nietzschean creed manifests itself as severe intellectual malady, which leads to depression, loneliness, and his eventual suicide. London depicts how aesthetic standardization and the popular press also contribute to Eden’s despair.

Keywords:   Herbert Spencer, Nietzsche, Survival, Alienation, Modernism

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