Martin Eden


Martin Eden Essay, Research Paper

Jack London, prestigious author of Martin Eden writes his opinions into

his work. Aspects of different societies are prevalent throughout his

work and the class struggle between different classes of characters is

apparent in his writing. Although not an autobiography much of his

writing can appear to include his personal views on life. Martin Eden,

the protagonist created by London begins as a petty seaman works his

his way to the upper class of society. Through self-determination and

self-education he is able to become a member of the bourgeois. Writers

with styles similar to London in that they all write in the same style

in that shows the struggle of the poor and their climb to the upper

class only to see that it reveals a faux ideal. Alice Hoffman author of

Here On Earth appears to hold many of the same beliefs as Martin which

are seen throughout her novel.

Martin Eden was forced to make his own living. Eden was never

given anything and had to work to gain everything he wanted.

Everyday struggles included finding the simple necessities of

food and shelter. As a poor sailor, Eden looked around and saw

the ideals of the bourgeois. Through the eyes of Eden the

Bourgeois were the educated, wealthy, and were what Martin

desired to become. He dreams of becoming educated and belonging

to the upper class; ultimately he finds one small connection

that opens up a new world to the once struggling seaman.

Although later disproved, his first impressions of this class

were seen from an outsider^s view as perfect. ^Here was

intellectual life, he thought, and here was beauty, warm and

wonderful as he had never dreamed it could be.^ (p. 40) Martin

comes into contact with a family that introduces him to this

new world. The Morse family was all Martin dreamed of, he

viewed them, as them part of a perfect society and Ruth was the

focal point of it.! Ruth was heavenly like a flower; her

culture and sophistication stimulated him.

Introduction to this new class surprised Martin. The library, a

new idea to him, becomes his new haven. Although he lacked both

the time and money necessary for a traditional education

between sailing he began his way to self-education. In the

beginning Martin was separated from Ruth because of their class

difference, but as this yearning for education developed he and

Ruth become involved. ^He wasn^t of their tribe, and he

couldn^t talk their lingo was the way he put it to himself. He

couldn^t fake being their kind.^ (p. 51) Although he wasn^t

born any with any of these ^privileges^ he made it his business

to strive to fulfil what he thought was the better society.

Through his studying he soon developed a love for writing and

although he was still a sailor he continued to develop a

passion for something new to his mind. Discovering the world of

writing and literature he was able to take himself places he

had never dreamed he would be. His climb to the upper class

was a big struggle for him in his life. Martin^s first attempt

at becoming a part of the society was a failure. At first his

etiquette wasn^t good enough and he was too opinionated and

looked down upon by guests of the Morses^. Martin^s writing

transcends him into a new person. Martin^s transformation

allows him to understand that things are not cracked up to what

they appear to be. When he achieves opulence, Martin feels as

if he is still not accepted as a true member of the elite. He

believes that he is still the same Martin Eden, his fame has

only changed his image not his character. ^Martin bethought

himself of the numerous occasions on which he had met Judge Blount at

the Morses^ and when Judge Blount had not invited him to dinner. Why

had he not invited him to dinner than? He asked himself. He had not

changed. He was the same Martin Eden. What made the difference?^ (p.

437) The truth of the upper class is revealed once Martin becomes

accepted as one of them. Martin becomes disgusted and as he was once

looked down upon, he begins to look down upon the members of the ^upper


Throughout literature this common rejection can be found. In

Alice Hoffman^s, Here On Earth Hollis is similar to Martin

Eden. This is the same rejection that Hollis experiences at the

hands of Hank and their eronics. The age-old argument of new

money vs. old money is a central theme throughout literature.

At one point another prominent author, F. Scott Fitzgerald

remarked to Ernest Hemingway, ^the rich are different from you

and me.^ As Hollis and Martin Eden are to the respective rich,

they can never be truly accepted into the bourgeois society.

Hover, their dedication to assuming the identity of the rich

causes them misery and sorrow and eventually leads to a tragic

death. Martin Eden^s perseverance and hard work were both a let

down and a pickup it was a double-edged sword. His laboring

leads to his eventual success and his emotional downfall.

London explores a key question; Is it worth the trouble to gain

prestige and wealth but to lose your livelihood? Through Martin

Eden London explores the struggle between classes. Specifically

London explains the yearning of the poor to be rich and the

steadfastness of the rich to be unacceptant of the ^nouvelle

rich.^ This struggle is apparent as barriers continue to exist

in the struggle between classes.

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