Throughout the history of literature, authors have used their works to underscore beliefs that they hold dear. This can happen whether the work is fiction, non-fiction or a combination of both. The work of the author can illustrate a point by using obvious comparisons and angles or it can use a more subtle approach such as metaphors or other methods of illustration.
Even when the work is fiction, often times the true feelings and beliefs of the author are interlaced throughout the story. When someone writes a story their life experiences and events come into play even if it is on a subconscious level.
Jack London was an author whose work was originally taken at face value and it was only after his death that the world began to analyze and see the underpinnings of his meanings. He wrote books about things he knew well. He penned the Call of the Wild which became one of the most well-known works of fiction in recent literary history. While London is well-known for the stories he penned the one book that is perhaps the most deeply written piece of his life is often overlooked at a masterpiece of literary art. Martin Eden is London's work of self-reflection. It is a book that is self-analyzing, biographical and sensitive in nature.
Jack London was a fan of a theorist named Friedrich Nietzsche who examined the need of mankind to have religion. This paper will compare London's novel, Martin Eden, to the theory of Nietzsche regarding religion. The paper will focus on the final statement of the novel which reads, "And at the instant he knew, he ceased to know."
For the purpose of the paper the similarities between the protagonist and the seeking of God in the Christian faith will be discussed. In addition the life of London as well as the belief's of his favorite theorist will be discussed and used to illustrate the book's underlying meaning.
Examples from the book will be used to make the point that the semi-autobiographical account of Martin Eden really illustrates the theory of Nietzsche about mankind developing religion because it needs religion but as mankind embraces and immerses itself in the faith that it follows it comes full circle and the instant it knows, it ceases to know.
The paper is going to take the book apart and illustrate the love Martin feels for Ruth, her lifestyle and her family is metaphorically similar to the embracement of born again Christians who discover God. As the protagonist. Martin, idolizes, studies, embraces and understands Ruth and her family she loses her all knowing aura, much in the same way many people come to believe religion and God are mankind's invention.
The literary world is a world that interlaces fact and fiction even when it is a fictional piece of work. The world of literature is really no more than the feelings, opinions and ideas of the authors who pen the work between the binded covers. The work that is produced by authors in the world of literature takes the reader on an exploratory journey of the author's heart and mind.
The author cannot help but intertwine portions of his or her soul with the work produced. It is often unconscious and many times it is not truly discovered and analyzed for years after the work has been published. Many times the story has to be read several times before the underpinnings can be truly visualized and appreciated. Once the true foundation is discovered it becomes obvious to those who read the book or story. One of Jack London's masterpiece novels involves a three pronged underpinning.
The first thing the story does is present the reader with the career of the author through the eyes and life of its protagonist Martin Eden. The second thing it does is allow the total exploration and comparison of the storyline to the theory of London's favorite theorist Frederic Nietzsche regarding religion and mankind's understanding of religion. The final thing the story does is create an understanding of the point mankind understands religion so well that it becomes obvious it is a falsehood. The final line of the book is "And at the instant he knew, he ceased to know." The entire book once compared to the Nietzsche theory of religion's origin and reason for existence is contained within this final line.
Jack London was arguably one of the most deeply founded authors of recent history. His books provide understanding and entertainment on several levels. While he was alive he spent years being underappreciated and misunderstood. His works were often criticized as being amateur or juvenile. It was only in his later life and after his death that the true genius of his talent began to be understood. London crafted stories that provided understandings of theories that were from many of the most forward thinkers of his time. He used fictional plots to illustrate the ideas that underscored those he shared opinions with.
One of the people that jack London admired most was Frederick Nietzsche. Nietzsche presented his ideas to the world in a dry and no nonsense approach. He was a believer in mankind developing whatever skills it needs to survive both mentally and emotionally. One of the things Nietzsche promoted was the idea that religion is a man invented concept for the purpose of self comfort. According to the theory, religion is the method by which mankind addresses the inevitable, death. It is also the method mankind uses to explain the self-reflection and understanding of existence that the world uses to move forward.
Nietzsche's theory is developed in his work called "Beyond Man." It allows for the possibility that man invented God as well as spiritual faith and religion so that mankind can feel okay about its eventual and individually carried out demise. Dying and death are very scary ideas for man to grasp and the questions becomes, what is the point of working hard and having goals in life if the end result is death with no after life. The theory believes that mankind invented religion and death for the purpose of counteracting such a bleak future and it allows the world to move forward as if there is a final purpose for its existence.
The afterlife and spiritual questions that have been asked and studied throughout history have been examined from almost every angle. Those who believe in God and the purpose of life based on that God believe that there is an afterlife for eternity. There are other faiths that believe different variations of the same faith. Some religions believe that man is reincarnated and comes back over and over again until he gets it right. Other faiths believe that when one dies they go to a holding place where they wait until judgment day to get into heaven or hell. Other faiths believe that one becomes another dimension and remains on earth as a spirit.
Regardless of the belief held by those who follow a faith the belief is that there is a divine being or beings responsible for man's existence and that the spiritual world awaits each person who dies in whatever form the faith follows as true.
Frederick Nietzsche believed that man invented religion to feel better. The more evolved man gets the more scientific the progress becomes and the advent of religious faith abounds. According to Nietzsche man invents religion as a way to self soothe the truth of death and the finality of its existence.
The book by Jack London provides a blueprint explanation of the theory by using the characters as various historical points of religious faith.
WHO WAS JACK LONDON?
Before one can begin to fully understand and appreciate the way Martin Eden illustrates the statement, "And the instant he knew, he ceased to know" by Jack London one should have a firm grasp about London himself. It is important for one to understand an author if one wants to be able to recognize the underpinnings of the story one studies. In this case it becomes especially germane to the topic at hand because the book Martin Eden has long since been believed to be a semi-autobiographical account of the way London viewed himself, those around him and his life. This comes into play when the protagonist develops an obsessive fascination with Ruth in the same way Nietzsche believes man gets an obsessive fascination with religion.
Jack London's Life (http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/London/jackbio.html)
Jack London came to be the person he was by the life experiences that he had as a child and as an adult. Understanding these events help the reader to understand how he came to admire Nietzsche and how he came to pen Martin Eden as an illustration of Nietzsche's theory regarding the need for mankind to have a religion to cling to for self preservation.