Follow TV Tropes


Creator / Jack London

Go To

"Jack London's greatest adventure was his own life story."
Preface to an edition of The Call of the Wild

John Griffith "Jack" London (born John Griffith Chaney, January 12, 1876 – November 22, 1916) was an American author best known for his adventure novels and short stories. He was also one of the first Americans to make a lucrative career exclusively from writing. Twice (in 1901 and 1905) he ran for mayor of Oakland, CA, as a Socialist. When he was 21 he went to the Yukon Territory to prospect for gold during the Klondike Gold Rush; this served as inspiration for some of his most famous works, such as "To Build a Fire" and The Call of the Wild. He also worked as a journalist, writing news articles about the Klondike and the Russo-Japanese War, and penning a memorable eyewitness account of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.

He credited Oakland poet and librarian Ina Coolbrith with first putting books in his hands as a young child. He was a huge fan of Ouida and said her book Signa was one of the eight reasons behind his literary success. He was an extremely prolific author, releasing dozens and dozens of novels, stories, short story collections, and poems over a 20-year career.

The Soviets and the rest of the Eastern Bloc loved him, to the point they named a lake in the Russian Far East after him.

London died of kidney failure, with morphine addiction and severe alcoholism as contributory causes, in 1916.

London's best known works include:

Tropes Appearing in Jack London's other works:

  • After the End: "The Scarlet Plague" takes place long after a global disease outbreak and hardly anyone remembers the times before
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Zigzagged depending on the levels of animal abuse depicted, but needless animal cruelty is always treated as an unnecessary evil. So much so that "Batârd", written in 1907, is one of the earliest examples of a work of art condemning animal abuse.
  • Based on a True Story: The main character of "The Mexican" is based on a boxer who took the pseudonym "Joe Rivers" and used his winnings to help finance a group supporting the Mexican Revolution.
  • China Takes Over the World: The Unparalleled Invasion has a slow (and very racist — it is a perfect example of the Yellow Peril concept, though not of the trope) version: a modernized Imperial China (it was written in 1910, literally a year before the Qing fell) expanding by having its growing population constantly move into bordering regions. Outnumber the natives, officially annex the place, start moving into the new bordering regions... ultimately, they're stopped by an international coalition using biological warfare to exterminate the Chinese population (the Unparalleled Invasion the title references). This is portrayed as a good thing.
  • Fictional Color: One of the competing students in "The Shadow and the Flash" turns himself invisible by discovering a color that is so dark it can't be seen by the human eye.
  • Fountain of Youth: In "The Rejuvenation of Major Rathbone" the main character's friend devises a serum that can regress aging.
  • Grin of Rage: This is a reccuring theme in the short story, "Bâtard". The titular character, a wolf-dog named Bâtard, is almost always described with words related to humanity, while his sociopathic master, Leclère, is often described with words related to animals. This accentuates the themes of survival of the fittest, nature vs nurture, and the barely hidden savagery of man. So, Leclère is described as "pulling his lips back" or "baring his teeth" whenever he smiles, and whenever Bâtard bares his teeth with hate and rage at his abusive owner, he is described as "grinning".
  • Invisibility: The two rival friends in The Shadow and the Flash find different ways to turn to do this but with this same result.
  • The Plague: "The Scarlet Plague" and "The Unparalleled Invasion."
  • Rambling Old Man Monologue: How the old man in "The Scarlet Plague" relates the story of the destruction of civilization.
  • Sibling Rivalry: In "The Shadow and the Flash."
  • Tragic Villain: The titular character of "Batârd" is a particularly depressing example. He is a wolf-dog hybrid bought by a complete sociopath as a pup, and is horribly abused his entire life. He only stays with his owner as an adult so that he can wait for an opportunity to kill him. Eventually, he gets his revenge, but at the cost of his own life.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: "Mutiny On The Elsinore" (1914). Those fitting the trope are Captain West and his officers - plus the narrator, who Takes A Level In Badass by the end to quell the mutiny. The crew are made up of all sorts of bandits and other wicked people. This caused a pretty racist description from the narrator well before any sort of violence begun.