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 Jack London’s moderate socialist stance has been replaced by a radical revolutionary attitude in “The Iron Heel”.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.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

Summer has been normal and boring for Harry Potter until right before the end. Dementors show up in his town and attack him and his cousin Dudley. Harry uses magic to fight off the creatures and, almost instantly, gets sent a letter from the Ministry that is requiring him to go to a disciplinary hearing. At the hearing it will be decided if Harry should be expelled from Hogwarts. At the hearing it is decided that Harry will not be expelled from Hogwarts. Once there, Harry notices a lot of strange things. Skeletal horses are pulling school carriages, but he is the only one that can actually see the horses. Also there is another new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher named Dolores Umbridge. There are also rumors that Harry and Dumbledore are going crazy for thinking that Voldemort is returning. The only people that stand by Harry’s side are Ron and Hermione. Harry frequently gets detention with Professor Umbridge for lashing out at the people that think he’s crazy. Professor Umbridge soon becomes Hogwarts High Inquisitor which gives her the power to sack teachers whenever she feels that it’s necessary. Because of Harry’s frequent detentions, Professor Umbridge decides to take away the things Harry loves most like Quidditch, Sirius Black’s letters, and the ability to visit Hagrid at his hut. In retaliation, Harry forms a defense group which he calls Dumbledore’s Army. Professor Umbridge soon finds out, and Dumbledore takes the blame. In doing so, Dumbledore has to leave Hogwarts to avoid being arrested. Harry frequently has dreams of dark corridors and locked doors, and his scar prickles very often. Harry then finds out that Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, was killed, and Dumbledore tells Harry the ultimate prophecy: If Harry doesn’t kill Voldemort, Voldemort will eventually kill Harry.

-Emilio V.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Antigone by Sophocles

oedipus_sophocles“Antigone” is one play in the book of The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles. Antigone starts after Oedipus passed away in Colonus. It is a famous tragedy set in the disastrous city of Thebes. Some popular themes featured in the play are male vs. female, family ties vs. civic duty, and morality vs. law.

Antigone and her sister, Ismene, decide to return to Thebes to help their brothers, Eteocles and Polynices. When they arrive at Thebes, the sisters come to know that both brothers have been killed. Eteocles has been given a proper burial, however, Creon refuses to do so for Polynices because he thinks he betrayed the city.  Antigone disobeys the law and buries Polynices anyway, in order to honor her brother and the life he lived. Creon finds out about the illegal burial soon enough, and when he locks Antigone up in a jail cell, she kills herself. The blind prophet Teiresias, Haemon, which is Creon’s son and Antigone’s fiance, and the Chorus beg to release her from prison, without the knowledge that she is already dead. Creon eventually surrenders, only to realize that she has killed herself. At the end of the play, Creon is left sorrowful and lonely, since nobody believed that his actions were justified.

-Nirmeet B.

Antigone is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library