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Martin Eden (1909)

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Living in Oakland, California at the dawn of the 20th century, Martin Eden struggles to rise far above his destitute circumstances through an intense and passionate pursuit of self-education in order to achieve a coveted place among the literary elite. The main driving force behind Martin Eden's efforts is his love for Ruth Morse. Because Eden is a sailor from a working class background, and the Morses are a bourgeois family, a union between them would be impossible until he reaches their level of wealth and perceived cultural, intellectual refinement.

Just before the literary establishment discovers Eden’s talents as a writer and lavishes him with the fame and fortune that he had incessantly promised Ruth (for the last two years) would come, she loses her patience and rejects him in a wistful letter: "if only you had settled down…and attempted to make something of yourself." When the publishers and the bourgeois - the very ones who shunned him - are finally at his feet, Martin has already begrudged them and become jaded by unrequited toil and love. Instead of enjoying his success, Eden retreats into a quiet indifference, only interrupted to mentally rail against the genteelness of bourgeois society or to donate his new wealth to working class friends and family.

The novel ends with Martin Eden committing suicide by drowning, a detail which undoubtedly contributed to what researcher Clarice Stasz calls the 'biographical myth' that Jack London's own death was a suicide.

Joan London noted that "ignoring its tragic ending," the book is often regarded as "a 'success' story...which inspired not only a whole generation of young writers but other different fields who, without aid or encouragement, attained their objectives through great struggle."

More information on Wikipedia.

Martin Eden. In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 11, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Eden