One is led to believe that if a person is an author, then that person would have the best education that is available to them. However, this is not the case for Jack London. He dropped out of school at the age of fourteen and explored San Francisco, stole oysters, worked for the government, went to Japan, and traveled around the United States by hitching rides on freight trains.
This is just a list of the few things he did during the five-year period while he did not attend school. He then returned and finished high school at the age of nineteen to continue onto the University of California at Berkeley, only to quit after one semester. Yet, he is described by Howard Lacchtman, as a “born teller of tales”.
Flora Wellman gave birth to Jack London on January 12, 1876 in San Francisco, California. Flora Wellman was an unmarried woman who came from a very wealthy background. Jack London’s father, an astrologer who was very nomadic, deserted him and his mother when Jack London was born. Jack London received his last name from his stepfather who married his mother late in the year of 1876.
John London, Flora Wellman, and Jack London moved to Oakland, California in 1886 where Jack London spent his childhood years. It is said that London was a frequent visitor of the Oakland Public Library and loved to read at an early age. Yet, because of the hard times, he always helped support his family by “delivering newspapers, sweeping saloon floors, setting up pins in a bowling alley and working at other jobs”.
At the age of fourteen, Jack London decided to quit school to “escape poverty and gain adventure” (Britannica.com Inc.). He did a number of things in the five-year period while he escaped from school. He pirated for oysters on the San Francisco Bay, worked to capture poachers on fish patrols, and sailed all around the Pacific Ocean on a sailing ship. He also “hoboed around the country” and worked many miscellaneous, strenuous and ruthless jobs. At the age of nineteen, he returned to school to discover his passion in life, reading.
When London returned to high school at the age of nineteen, he became well acquainted with the idea of socialism through the many books he read. At the age of twenty he became a student at the University of California at Berkeley, but he quit after one semester. London was often known as the “Boy Socialist of Oakland for his street corner oratory”.
He ran many times for the political title of mayor as a socialist, but to his disappointment, he was never elected. He later quit the Socialist party because because of its “lack of fire and fight” and its loss of “emphasis on the class struggle” (Port of Oakland). Because he was never elected, he chose to become a writer to escape poverty and the horrific working conditions of factories, mines and hard labor. So London tried to support himself by writing, all without success, and eventually joined the gold rush to the Klondike in 1897. He then returned from the Klondike gold rush in 1898 to attempt writing once again.
He sold his story, To the Man on Trail to the Overland Monthly of San Francisco for five dollars. Since his publication in the Overland Monthly, he became a dedicated and disciplined writer. He then completed his first book in 1900, The Son of the Wolf, which is a collection of his tales from Klondike, Alaska.
In the same year as his first book release, London married Elizabeth Maddern and they settled in Oakland, California. After the birth of his first daughter Joan in 1901 he ran for the Oakland mayor as a Socialist candidate, but did not win. His second daughter Bess was born in 1902. A short while after Bess was born, London and his family moved to Piedmont Hills where he met and became good friends with George Sterling. However, this was not his last move and he did not live happily ever after.
In 1905, he divorced his wife Elizabeth London and the next day he married Charmian Kittredge. Together they bought a ranch near Glen Ellen in Sonoma Valley where London lived the rest of his life. In 1910, he started to construct a mansion “designed to stand a thousand years” (Port of Oakland), however it burned down in 1913, the day before they were to move in. Later that year, he had an appendectomy and the surgeon told him his kidneys were deteriorating and he would not live for very long.
London died on November 22, 1916 due to an attack of uremia, a severe kidney disease. Through his whole lifetime London wrote over 50 short stories, poems and novels about boxing, cold adventures, and Klondike trails. He lived to see many events go down in history.
- Britannica.com Inc. “London, Jack.” 14 Oct. 2000. Available WWW: http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/0/0,5716,49990+1,00.html
- London, Jack. The Call of the Wild. New York: I. Wadman & Son, INC., 1979.
- Lundberg, Murray. “The Life of Jack London as reflected in his Works.” n pag. On-line. 13 Sept. 2000. Available WWW: http://articculture.about.com/culture/arcticculture/library/yafeatures/bl-london.htm
- Lundberg, Murray. “The Life of Jack London as reflected in his Works.” n pag. On-line. 13 Sept. 2000. Available WWW: http://articculture.about.com/culture/arcticculture/library/yafeatures/bl-london2htm
- Lundberg, Murray. “The Life of Jack London as reflected in his Works.” n pag. On-line. 13 Sept. 2000. Available WWW: http://articculture.about.com/culture/arcticculture/library/yafeatures/bl-london3.htm
- McLeod, Jim. “Jack London Main Page.” n. pag. On-line. 13 Sept. 2000.Available WWW: http://www.jacklondon.com
- Stasz, Clarice. “Jack London’s ‘Credo’.” 19 Jan. 1999: n. pag. On-line. 13 Sept. 2000. Available WWW: http://www.sunsite.berkeley.edu/London/credo.html
- Stasz, Clarice Dr. “John Griffiths London.” 15 May 2000: n. pag. On-line. 13 Sept. 2000. Available WWW: http://www.sunsite.berkeley.edu/London/jackbio.html