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The Law of Life, by Jack London Essay

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What lengths should one go to in order to survive? This is a question which has challenged the human race for generations and to which no satisfactory answer exists. In the modern world, this issue is examined theoretically, but rarely confronts individuals, with the exception of the most destitute. However, in harsh environments and forbidding territories, this matter becomes very real and pressing. Nature pays no attention to the arbitrary emotions of man, demanding only the forfeiture of the sorrowfully short life granted to him. Many would argue that in order to delay the inevitable conclusion awaiting every man, humans must act upon their primal intuition rather than their emotions. Jack London’s “The Law of Life” includes this naturalistic viewpoint that human survival instinct drives individuals more than feelings or compassion. London shows this through his protagonist Old Koshkoosh’s past experiences and tribal upbringing, his view on life, and the actions of his family members.
Human instincts are characteristics or tendencies imbued in man at birth. They reflect the eons of experience which shape the human psyche. Man’s compassionate nature allows him to define his own personality and build relationships. Jack London believed, however, that in trying situations this desire for self-preservation supersedes emotional attachments. He showed this through both Old Koshkoosh’s tribal upbringing and his past experiences. While sitting in the snow and reminiscing about his childhood, Old Koshkoosh contemplated his existence, espousing the principles ingrained in him by a childhood in a home environment based upon the goal of survival. The narrator described Koshkoosh’s learned beliefs, writing, “But one task did nature set the...


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...ndon’s naturalistic views and their role in his literary work.
In Jack London’s “The Law of Life,” he illustrated his naturalistic belief that instincts are more dominant in the human mind than feelings or emotional attachments. He revealed this through the main character’s experiences and upbringing, his perception of life, and the actions of his family members. Many would disagree with Jack London’s viewpoints, arguing that love and compassion can vanquish survival instinct, even in the face of death. However, unless one is placed in an environment where the continuation of life is not guaranteed, London’s opinions cannot be challenged.



Works Cited

London, Jack. "The Law of Life." Children of the Frost. N.p.: Macmillan, 1902. N. pag. Rpt. in McDougal Littell Literature: American Literature. By Janet Allen et al. Evanston: McDougal Littell, 2008. 746-52. Print.


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