62 pages 2 hours read

Jack London

Martin Eden

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1909

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Character Analysis

Martin Eden

Content Warning: This section refers to death by suicide.

The novel’s protagonist, Martin Eden is large and physically strong from a lifetime of heavy labor; since age 11, he has had to take care of himself and work. Martin is 21 years old, works as a sailor, and lacks a formal education. He’s suddenly thrust into the world of bourgeois society after rescuing Arthur Morse from an assault.

Life at sea added a sway to Martin’s step; he’s somewhat ungainly and awkward on land. His strong-featured face and thick neck are scarred from fights and from being lashed by a rope when he saved a fellow sailor from drowning. Beneath his tough exterior, Martin has great, though untrained, intelligence and is keenly sensitive to beauty. He has traveled throughout the world, from treasure hunting in the South Seas, to spending time with Indigenous people in Tahiti, to surviving dengue fever thanks to a beautiful woman in a colony of people with leprosy. Martin harbors a special love for the South Seas, which he later views as an escape from bourgeois society. Throughout the first part of the novel, his lack of education and vocabulary causes him to struggle to capture the scope of his thoughts and observations.

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