The semiautobiographical Martin Eden is the most vital and original character Jack London ever created. Set in San Francisco, this is the story of Martin Eden, an impoverished seaman who pursues, obsessively and aggressively, dreams of education and literary fame. London, dissatisfied with the rewards of his own success, intended Martin Eden as an attack on individualism a
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This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. A remarkable attempt by Jack London in dissecting a person’s evolution of being as they happen upon the path of enlightenment. Martin Edin (M.E.–a hint at the author’s identification with the hero?) is a roughneck sailor who is blinded and transformed by the inner and outer beauty of a woman he meets, but this is just the beginning. Looking into her eyes he caught, “glimpses of the soul, and a glimpse of his own too.” His former mode of being had co
Throughout the story his journey is chronicled as an intellectual and moral advance that conducts him from the dark haunts of his former ‘cave’ of a life, and gives entrance into a world of truth and love that was too white hot in radiance for the sleepy bumps he used to call his eyes. He educates himself through a personal track of reading books (indiscriminately at first, but in time becoming more direct and intentional), and soon he soars above even his erudite peers in his apprehension of philosophy and scientific verities. “And so you arise from mud, Martin Edin,…and you cleanse your eyes in a great brightness, thrusting your shoulders among the stars…and wresting highest heritage from all the powers that be.”
He mounts to a dizzying height of cultural development and cerebral prowess…yet he ultimately finds himself engulfed in loneliness and emptiness. He had opened the windows of the cramped quarters of his former existence, and having completed his trek of this new world he discovered, he finds that it is hermetically sealed from all outside life and anything that could possibly make him happy again. He had found truth, but lost love…and he finally wrestles with the decision about what to do with it all. His answer will shock you.