Holdenesque

By the end of Jack London’s novel, Martin Eden, we see the main protagonist, Martin Eden, devolve to what can probably be called a deep clinical depression. Martin, the tireless worker and writer who despises sleep for the moments of life it deprives him, now spends the majority of his time in the throes of deep slumber. Martin who could not speak without passion flashing from his eyes, now falls asleep in the middle of conversations. Martin’s depressed state is particularly frightening because we see exactly what he is capable of. As Martin’s best friend, Brissenden,  repeatedly states, Martin is somewhat of the Nietzschean uberman, “I look only to the strong man, the man on horseback, to save the state from its own rotten futility…Nietzsche was right…  The world belongs to the strong—to the strong who are noble as well and who do not wallow in the swine-trough of trade and exchange.  The world belongs to the true nobleman, to the great blond beasts, to the noncompromisers, to the ‘yes-sayers.’…Martin Eden is one of them.”He is vastly superior to all the male characters in the novel because if he is not intellectually their superior, physically, he would crush them dominantly. Martin sets out on a nearly impossible task, and through his own ability, persistence and fortitude he is able to find success, so why then, is this embodiment of mankind in it’s highest form driven to suicide? We’ve seen Martin defeat essentially every obstacle that a man can face. He overcomes his lack of education in a fantastic fashion, he continuously  battles poverty and starvation,  he over comes sickness and exhaustion, but it is almost Holdenesque how much Martin struggles with the “phoniness” that comes after. (Upsetting note: I wrote this blog post just because I wanted to use the word Holdenesque because I thought I invented it, a quick Google search revealed I didn’t). We can accept Martin’s suicide as the culmination of the rejection by Ruth and him being thrown into this world of fake airs of which he has no business in, but we’ve seen too much of Martin Eden for that to be the case. The chasm that he feels between him and society now can not be drastically wider than the one he faced at the start of the novel with the bourgeoisie. To close that gap required more work and he received far more resistance.  So what is London saying here? If Martin is the uberman and is ultimately driven to kill himself, there are really only a few options. London could be saying there is no ubermensch; that despite all of mental and physical gifts, Martin was subject to collapse and it was only a matter of time. London could also be insinuating the more depressing sentiment that there is no room in society for the uberman. When he does  come to exist it is only for a short time, and then society’s faults eventually tears him apart. =(

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