Book Review: The Iron Heel by Jack London

The Iron Heel (Penguin Classics): London, Jack, Auerbach, Jonathan ...

The novel “The Iron Heel” is written in the form of a memoir, the author is Avis. The manuscript, which was written by Ives, was hidden in a hole in a dead tree before she died and was only found hundreds of years later. Everhard, a Socialist ideologue turned blacksmith, was a guest of Avis’s father, a liberal professor, whose revelations of the cruel exploitation of the monopoly capitalists interested her, and she went herself to investigate and prove the truth. A worker who had his hand broken trying to protect a machine lost his case in court after being fired without a pension. “The Iron Heel” continues to write about the struggle between the revolution and the counter-revolution, how the counter-revolutionary cultivated the working aristocracy and destroyed the workers’ unity, how the government and army suppressed the people’s unrest, how the revolutionaries carried out open and underground struggles, and how the masses overthrew the American bourgeois oligarchy — “The Iron Heel”.

The author foresees the day when a deadly struggle between the American proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the oligarchy known in the novel as “The Iron Heel”, will break out. Jack London gives readers a great picture of the proletarian revolution through his fictional account of the armed riots that broke out in Chicago in 1917. Such scenes were seen in Paris in 1871 and in Petersburg in 1905. “The Iron Heel” is a political prophetic novel conveying Jack London’s wish for the broad proletariat to unite in the armed revolutionary struggle. “The Iron Heel” depicts the failure of the American workers’ revolutionary uprising and the establishment of bloody rule, but the novel is full of revolutionary optimism. He is convinced of the establishment of a progressive and just social system for human beings, and also believes that the future will not be a society where people oppress and exploit people. Jack London’s moderate socialist stance has been replaced by a radical revolutionary attitude in “The Iron Heel”. He predicted that capitalism would go to extremes, to evils, and advocated its overthrow by violence. “The Iron Heel” is a literary expression of Jack London’s dissatisfaction with the right-leaning revolutionary line of the socialist party members of his day.

The novel’s main story takes place in Chicago, an industrial city that, according to Avis’s manuscript, has been the center of a storm of conflict, with brutal street battles, assassinations, bloodshed, and violence. In writing about the big themes of Chicago, writers often focus on concrete examples to support the macro level of class struggle at the micro level. Jack London focuses on the tragic experience of Jackson, a representative of the ordinary working class. Jack London, through such an example, on the one hand attacked the dehumanized industrial production, which used laborers as slaves. Once the laborers lost their labor value, they were mercilessly abandoned. On the other hand, the writer criticizes the capitalist social system and the superstructure of capitalist economic production, which conspire to protect the interests of the bourgeoisie while maintaining unequal economic distribution.

-Coreen C.

Book Review: Martin Eden by Jack London

Martin Eden - Jack London | Feedbooks

Martin Eden is a semi-autobiographical novel written by American writer Jack London. The story tells about young sailor Martin Eden to get acquainted with Miss Rose of high society by chance, be inspired by her, and began his hard creation career. Despite all the setbacks, he still refused to obey Rose’s arrangement to enter her father’s office and become a promising young man. Then his fortune suddenly changed, and manuscripts that had previously been rejected were published and he became a popular writer. Friends and relatives who despised him before fell over each other to invite him to dinner, and Miss Rose who had broken up with him also came to throw herself on him. This makes him see clearly this world as a cold society; the wonderful illusion that holds him to love also is also disillusioned thoroughly.

In the real American society where Jack London lives, the United States has entered the period of monopoly capitalism. The bourgeoisie not only monopolizes the material wealth of society but also monopolizes the spiritual wealth. The bourgeoisie believes that all good things in the society belong to them, no matter in material life or in spiritual life. In the face of the underclass they turned their noses up. Therefore, in Jack London’s novel Martin Eden, the criticism and accusation of the corruption of the capitalist system, the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie, and the inequality of class hierarchy can be seen everywhere. Through the description of the text, the reader can see different faces of the characters in the novel and feel the resistance behind feelings of the hero and heroine, their irreconcilable differences in values, and the nature each class in the capitalist society.

-Coreen C.

Agnes Gray by Anne Brontë

Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte. I had rather low expectations for this  lesser-known Bronte novel, but it definitely exceed… | Agnes grey, Anne  bronte, Old movie posters

Agnes met the honorable curate Weston. Although both of them are equally poor, they have the good feelings of the world, and enjoy the beautiful things of nature together in helping each other. She and Weston lived an unflashy, truth-seeking life. In the face of ignorant and cruel students, selfish and hypocritical employers, Agnes showed integrity and patience. She never gave up her efforts and pursuit. She sympathizes with the weak and often visits and helps the poor. In this, Weston has done even better. In them, goodness is reflected. Compared with Agnes Gray and Weston, the ignorance, coldness, selfishness, and hypocrisy of the young ladies and gentlemen of the bourgeoisie are obvious. Standing on the progressive standpoint of that era, the author reveals the social inequality and unreasonableness.

Agnes Gray not only reflects the personal experience of a governess in the first half of the 19th century, but also highlights the characteristics of ignorance, callousness, selfishness and hypocrisy of the aristocracy and bourgeoisie in the rising stage of the British society at that time. Although they have accumulated a lot of material wealth and gained a high social status and power, readers can feel the dark side hidden behind all these grand appearances from the perspective of the author’s narration. These lords and ladies seemed to have fine manners and fine conversation, but their spiritual and material lives were far from balanced. If we cast aside that superficial appearance and go deep into their hearts, the reader will find that they are very poor in spirit.

Mr. Murray does nothing but drink and abuse, Uncle Robson is devious and takes pleasure in killing animals and insulting people, and Lord Ashby eats and drinks excessively. Even the Reverend Hatfield, the spiritual guide of these upper men, was no gentleman. From the pulpit he was eloquent, discerning and guiding, and presenting himself as the spokesman of the savior of mankind. As soon as he stepped off the pulpit, he showed his true colors. He tends to the ladies of the rich family. He is witty and talkative on the surface, but in reality he is a buffoon and a smooth talker. When he failed to court Miss Murray, he went out of his way to threaten her, and all the dignity and grace of the preacher was gone. In contrast to them were Agnes Gray, the governess, and the curate, Weston.

They all looked ordinary and came from poor families. They are indeed poor in material things, but they do not feel inferior to take the breath of the rich. They live a very full life within themselves, live by their own rules faithfully, and believe in the greatness of human love. They are striving for a balanced life, and if they have no ambition to make the world a better place, at least they want to perfect themselves. While seeking respect and love, they never forget to respect and love others. They live a life free from vanity and in pursuit of truth, which is not only their honesty to others and to themselves, but also their attitude towards life as a whole. They love knowledge and true friendship, as well as the plants and trees of nature.

They are intellectually, morally, and mentally superb to their employers or superiors. Because of their spiritual superiority, they face difficulties, grievances and injustices without deceiving themselves or feeling uneasy, and always accept the gifts of life with open arms. In this respect, the author seems to be saying that Agnes Gray and Weston’s acceptance of life is deeper and broader than that of property owners. It should be noted that in Agnes Gray and Weston, there is indeed a certain religious feeling. It is easy for the reader to relate much of the work, especially the personalities and experiences of the two men, to this background. It is true that the author measures a man’s character by the piety of his religious feelings.

The author distinguishes Agnes Gray from her employer by her faith in God and her love for humanity. But what is presented directly to the reader is Gray’s endurance, her efforts, and her pursuits in concrete life. So in this sense, religious background is only a superficial means to distinguish between the two, not the essence.

My 10th Grade Reading List

I am not particularly fond of reading a required set of novels for school, but these three below really changed my perspective on this. For my sophomore year, the literature was based upon the theme of “loss of innocence,” and I thoroughly enjoyed reading these classics for what they had to offer.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding:

It was the second time that I read this book, and I was absolutely astonished for all that I missed the first read through. Lord of the Flies is about a group of young boys who are stranded on an island. As they attempt to create order and society, their childish fears and greed thus bring out an unpredictable evilness that spreads among them. Golding walks us through the positive and negative aspects of human civilization and how it can be so easy to be manipulated by and drawn towards the dark nature of mankind.

1984 by George Orwell:

Although the hardest read out of the list, 1984 is still full of many mysterious and intriguing secrets throughout the entire novel. The protagonist Winston Smith lives in a dystopian society, where all its people praise their beloved leader Big Brother, who is never wrong and is never imperfect. The totalitarian government controls everything, including the past, present, and future, as well as strips their citizens of privacy and freedom of self-thought. Despite all this, Winston sees past the lies of his society and tries to solve the biggest mystery of his life. In his book, Orwell describes how ultimate totalitarian power can create an inhumane world of manipulation and can strip away the human identity.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger:

Catcher in the Rye is a lot easier to understand, but I got just as much out of it as the other classics. J.D. Salinger writes in the perspective of teenager Holden Caulfield and describes his short vacation spent in New York City after dropping out of his boarding school. Holden is a very cynical character – he believes that he is too mature and too good for anyone else. However, once Holden is exposed to the adult world and all of life’s imperfections, Salinger stresses the importance of childhood and the enjoyable experience of growing up.

-Riley W.

These titles–and other classic novels–can be checked out from the Mission Viejo Library.