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R I C H A R D V A N D E R B E E T S University of the Pacific Nietzsche of the North: Heredity and Race in London’s The Son of the Wolf Jack London’s racial biases are well enough known: his cover­ age of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, the international incident which resulted, and his cries against “the yellow Peril” clearly attest his anti-Oriental sentiments. London’s demonstrable racial prejudice, scarcely confined to dispatches from Asia, also encom­ passes a general theory of Nordic supremacy manifest in much of his later fiction. As a storyteller, London came to be praised as the “Kipling of the North,” but his recurring theme of the su­ premacy of the white man over all other peoples goes far beyond any psuedo-altruistic concept of the “white man’s burden” and puts him closer to Nietzsche than Kipling. This side of Jack London has been faithfully reported by his conscientious biographers; most, however, view it as finding artistic expression only in his novels and later stories. His most recent biographer, for example, remarks that London’s “pet theories about Nordic supremacy” were “first presented in A Daughter of the Snows”1 (1902), a judgment that ignores the racism manifest in aRichard O’Connor, Jack London: A Biopraphy (Boston, 1964), p. 148. Maxwell Geis­ mar, Rebels and Ancestors (Boston, 1953), pp. 146-47, correctly perceives London’s concept of the “Anglo-Saxon law of conquest” in the earlier The God of His Fathers (1901) and Children of the Frost (1902), but fails to comment on The Son of the Wolf in this con­ nection. See also Philip S. Foner, Jack London: American Rebel (New York, 1947), p. 42; and Irving Stone, Jack London, Sailor on Horseback (Cambridge, 1938), p. 141. 230 Western American Literature London’s very first work, nine short stories collected as The Son of the Wolf (1900), which takes for its target not the “yellow peril” of Asia, but the Alaskan Indian. It is not the overt, rather polemical racism found in A Daughter of the Snows, but a more submerged kind, though by no standards subtle, that insinuates itself and colors this earliest Yukon fiction. Evidence of this doctrine can be found in six of the nine tales which comprise the volume, ranging from simple traces or sug­ gestions to extended treatments implicit in central situations of plot. In a brief scene from the story “The Wisdom of the Trail,” for example, the following observations are made by Sitka Charley, a half-breed guide2 who at first refuses to take a white woman on an arduous journey, but soon yields to her arguments in “straight clean English” and reflects that . . . this was a new breed of woman; and ere they had been trailmates for many days, he knew why the sons of such women mastered the land and the sea, and why the sons of his own womankind could not prevail against them.3 In “To the Man on Trail,” a white Mountie, exhausted in pursuit of his man and near collapse from the chase, stops at the cabin of the Malemute Kid (the heroic figure who appears through­ out the series of tales). The Mountie’s “two half-breed dog-drivers” resist going farther—“the warmth and promise of rest were too tempting”—but, calling them women and curs, he moves them to action (though their “swart” faces flush angrily) and plunges on, leaving London to observe that “the dogged obstinacy of his race held him to the pace he had set, and would hold him till he dropped in his tracks.” The Mountie, incidentally, fails in this instance to get his man, but no matter, for as the Malemute Kid remarks, “A whiter man than Jack Westondale [the pursued] never ate from the same pot nor stretched blanket with you or me.” 2London is profoundly interested in the phenomenon of the half-breed, and it recurs as a character-type throughout his Klondike fiction. “God abhors a mongrel,” he wrote in the last year of his life. “In nature there is no place for a mixed breed” (Charmian London, Jack London...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 229-233
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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