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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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Free and Determined: Questions of Agency in The Road and The Star Rover

Free and Determined: Questions of Agency in The Road and The Star Rover

Chapter:
(p.92) 6 Free and Determined: Questions of Agency in The Road and The Star Rover
Source:
Jack London
Author(s):

Kenneth K. Brandt

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9780746312964.003.0006

This chapter discusses the ways in which London frequently represents the interplay of freedom and determinism in his work. The analysis focuses primarily on The Road, his tramp memoir, and The Star Rover, his prison novel and discusses how these novels address issues of agency. Most often, London posits that a viable category of agency exists and that a degree of moral responsibility is defensible; however, the degree of freedom and level of accountability he most consistently portrays are notably limited. Though his views on agency were not static, London most frequently dramatizes a position in the free will-determinism debate that resembles a compatibilistic view of free will. For London, the complexly muddled and inevitable intermingling of (often unconscious) deterministic factors with unimpeded conscious choices diminishes the cogency of the compatibilist position; yet, at the same time, he is unwilling to completely dismiss compatibilism because it presents a means to understand—and possibly to most fully realize—the widest range of whatever freedoms may be available. These tensions are central to the themes and conflicts in The Road and The Star Rover, where London explores the coexistence of free will and determinism.

Keywords:   free will, determinism, compatibilism, astral travel, tramping

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