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Martin Eden

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Harriet Martineau Biography to John McTaggart (John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart) Biography

a novel by Jack London, published in 1909. The narrative begins with Martin Eden, an uncouth sailor and labourer, entering the luxurious house of a cultured friend. Although uneasy in the cultivated company, he craves knowledge and life, and the narrative describes the quest upon which Eden's intellectual curiosity leads him. At the house he falls in love with Ruth Morse, an educated society woman who represents the values to which he aspires and who finds Eden both attractive and repellent. Eden becomes an unsuccessful writer, only finding understanding from his friend Russ Brissenden, a socialist poet, who gradually educates Eden in politics. After Eden is falsely reported as a socialist in the newspapers, his fiancée Ruth and her family desert him. Yet when one of his books belatedly makes him wealthy and famous, Ruth seeks to resume their previous engagement. Eden sees through her hypocrisy, and with Brissenden's suicide and his own increasing social isolation, he leaves home to travel in the South Seas. Having lost all self-respect and any will to live, he jumps from the ship and drowns. Eden's journey of self-education through the apparently high-thinking life of the bourgeoisie has distinct biographical parallels with London's own endeavours.

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