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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 268

learning, he wrote always under the obsession of physical energy. What was “elemental” in Frank Norris became “abysmal” in Jack London. He carried the cult of “red blood” in literature to an extreme at which it began to sink to the ridiculous, as in his lineal descendants of the moving-pictures. His heroes, whether wolves or dogs or prize-fighters or sailors or adventurers-at-large, have all of them approximately the same instincts and the same careers. They rise to eminence by the same methods, and eventually go down under the rush of stronger enemies. London, with the strength of the strong, exulted in the struggle for survival. He saw human history in terms of the evolutionary dogma, which to him seemed a glorious, continuous epic of which his stories were episodes. He set them in localities where the struggle could be most obvious: in the wilds of Alaska, on remote Pacific Islands, on ships at sea out of strikes, in the underworlds of various during strikes, in the underworlds of various cities, on the routes of vagabondage. As he had a boy’s glee in conflict, so he had a boy’s insensibility to physical suffering. The Sea-Wolf (1904) represents at its fullest his appetite for cold ferocity in its record of the words and deeds of a Nietzschean, Herculean, Satanic ship captain whose incredible strength terminates credibly in sudden paralysis and impotence.The Game (1905) shouts the lust of the flesh as expressed in pugilism. Before Adam (1906) goes apparently still further afield in a quest for the primitive and moves among the half arboreal ancestors of the race. White Fang (1905) reverses The Call of the Wild and brings a wolf among dogs.



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