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Jack London

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The iconic American novelist, short story writer, journalist and social activist, Jack London is best known for writing Call of the Wild (1903) and White Fang. Jack was born in San Francisco, California on January 12, 1876. It is not known for sure whether his parents Flora Wellman and William Henry Chaney were married. But after Chaney left Flora, she married John London who gave Jack his last name. Flora’s second marriage also gave jack two half sisters, Eliza and Ida. The family moved several times before finally settling in Oakland where Jack completed grade school. Living in a working class family with a low income, Jack was forced to contribute to the family income by selling newspapers at the age of 10.

Despite living in a crude environment, fighting to survive every day, London was an ambitious young man, always enthusiastic about his future. He was very fond of reading and writing. Discovering a library in Oakland, London engrossed himself in the exploration of literature. He labored at various jobs such as working as a cannery and a jute mill, and also worked as a window-washer, watchman, and longshoreman. Also at an early age, London learned to sail and bought himself a sloop from borrowed money and worked as an Oyster Pirate in the Bay. But when his own sloop was robbed, London set off to become a beggar. His days as a tramp gave London a deep insight into class systems and human behavior. London soon realized he wanted a better life for himself and upon returning to California he went to Oakland high school and later entered the University of California at Berkeley. However, he dropped out before finishing due to shortage of finances.

For quite long a time, London had also been busy writing while studying and working. His first story, Typhoon Off the Coast of Japan (1893) was written while he was on the sloop off the coasts of Siberia and Japan. London began taking writing seriously and begun a successful career as a writer. London joined the Socialist Labour Party in 1896. His socialist views are evident in his writings such as The Iron Heel (1908). In 1987 London left for the Klondike during the Gold Rush. He did not find any gold, instead got sick with scurvy. During that painful winter, London wrote To Build a Fire. His writings also made way to significant magazines such as the Overland Monthly and The Atlantic Monthly.

Back in Oakland, London married Bess Maddern on April 7, 1900. The couple had two daughters Joan and Bess. Four years later, London and Bess divorced. London’s second marriage was to Charmian Kittredge. Also in 1900, London’s first book, The Son of the Wolf was published followed by other works; The God of His Fathers (1901), A Daughter of the Snows (1902), The Children of the Frost (1902), The Cruise of the Dazzler (1902) and The People of the Abyss (1903). Around the same time London met Anna Strunsky, who would become a lifelong friend and also his writing partner for The Kempton-Wace Letters (1903).

Some more works to follow during London’s prolific writing career include The Faith of Men (1904), The Sea Wolf (1904), The Game (1905) was followed by War of the Classes(1905), Tales of the Fish-Patrol (1905), Moon Face and Other Stories (1906), Scorn of Women (1906), Before Adam (1907), Love of Life and Other Stories (1907), and The Road(1907). London continued to write productively until his death on November 22, 1916 at his ranch which has now become the Jack London State Historical Park.

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