62 pages 2 hours read

Jack London

Martin Eden

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1909

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Themes

Work Performed and the Shrine of the Established

Like all art, what people consider “good” literature is subjective. Literature that endures the test of time must first pass the first hurdle of publication, a process that, to Martin, is mechanized and subject to the whims of editors whom he believes are themselves failed writers. The tastes of these editors are as arbitrary as those of the public who buy the books they publish, even though they influence those tastes by selecting books and stories. When Martin accuses Ruth of worshipping “at the shrine of the established” (188), he’s accusing her of upholding the hegemony of taste, which he believes prevents free thought by gatekeeping challenges to the status quo. Martin completes his entire literary output within approximately two years. During this time, he faces multiple rejections from literary magazines, publishing houses, and even his closest supporters. His ideas are deemed too radical, unconventional, and even upsetting to publish. However, despite his many disappointments and setbacks, Martin perseveres, refusing to give up even when he faces financial destitution.

Upon achieving success, Martin is plagued with the notion of “work performed.” If the public now loves him, he wonders why no one supported or encouraged him when he struggled while writing the works that made him famous.

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