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Martin Eden Summary Essay

Probably everyone reads this outstanding novel at school or college and has to deal with dozens of assignments related to it. Nevertheless, this is not a kind of boring or useless book. Students are always glad to work on this story and find that it is not only educative but also very amusing. Hence, the majority has no fear while getting the task to analyze the protagonist of this novel. However, it is actually not that easy. Jack London, the author of this book, made his main hero really complicated and lots of efforts are necessary to understand it. There are several things, which make this novel special and lots of scholars even find that it is the best London’s masterpiece. Moreover, many other authors were inspired by it. What are points, which make this book so influential? There are most significant of them below.

Autobiographical Plot

Without any doubts, there are many significant points, which prove that the main character Martin has a close connection with the Jack London’s life. Some events, which happen with both of them and their traits of temper are similar. Sometimes they look completely equal. Thus, we can say that this novel is autobiographical. Why do scholars come to such a conclusion? Both Jack London and Martin Eden want to destroy the difference between social classes and support socialism. They claim that working people are those who play a great role and their families are related exactly to this class. In addition, author and his literary hero had to deal with lots of challenges on their road to the writing fame and popularity. Therefore, the one good paper changes their lives completely. Unluckily, Jack London also demonstrated some tragic moments of his life via Martin Eden, namely the disappointment concerning his values and the negative attitude towards the upper class. However, the character committed suicide while the author died in his bed even if some versions about the overdose of morphine exist.

“The Overman”

It is true that many scholars agree that Jack London took many of his ideas and concepts from famous philosophers. One of them was Nietzsche and his theory about “ubermensch,” or overman. Martin Eden can be easily referred to the category of such people. The author demonstrates his strengths and makes him almost a preferred character with a great willpower, ability to lead people and set the pace. We can say that Martin Eden really had some leadership qualities which open up in middle of the novel. Moreover, this personage himself talks a lot about Nietzsche’s ideas and concepts. However, he also mentions that such things are appropriate only as a theory, but not in the real life. The best way to understand his position and philosophy is analyzing dialogues, where he participates.

The Reason for Suicide

Probably the majority of people, who read this novel are wondering why Martin committed suicide. He had already reached the fame and popularity, Ruth loved him, he became familiar with the upper class. However, there still was the influential reason of his disappointment and depression, which led to the suicide. The major point is that Martin had lost all his ideals, and ideas he propagandized became useless and unimportant. He understood that the road he completed led to nothing and his desire to become a member of the upper sophisticated society was realized, but did not bring anything pleasant. Hence, it meant that all done things were in vain. For such creative people as Martin Eden, it was the final stage of his long hard road. There were no more reasons for him to stay alive and head on. He just found that he is not interested in life anymore.

Alienated in the Upper Society

There are no doubts that Martin wanted to become a member of the upper class. At the beginning of the story, we see how confused he feels while being invited to a sophisticated house, where people talk about poetical and philosophical themes. Martin quickly notices that they do no dirty job and spend their time reading and doing other intellectual activities. Ruth seems to be an angel for him. She is iconic and Martin Eden is amazed by her movements, knowledge and appearance from the first minutes of their meetings. However, even these impressions do not help him get rid of confusion. Martin feels the fear of doing something incorrectly and tries to control each of his words, but rude phrases anyway appear. Consequently, all members of the family find him a savage who has no abilities for intellectual work. They invited him just to see such a Wildman and do not have a serious attitude to him although this man is the one who has saved Arthur from death. We can conclude that Martin Eden is alienated. He is not like others and cannot become familiar with some usual for these people traditions, habits and so on.

All in all, there are some important things, which indicate the Martin Eden’s temper. Sure, he had not a calm and happy life. This person had to deal with thousands of challenges and fight off all difficulties. None of them destroyed his willpower and desire to become a great writer. However, the ruination of all his concepts and ideas made a negative impact on his life. That was the thing, which made him commit suicide. Unfortunately, Martin had no chance to survive because of all these adverse circumstances and dishonesty around him. The personal tragedy of Jack London is illustrated via the life of his character. Sure, almost all his personages were strong people, who had a great power of will and leadership qualities. However, Martin Eden is probably the best of his creations. Several philosophical concepts are connected in this character. It is hard to reveal all specialties that this personage has.



This is a semi-autobiographical novel. The title character becomes a writer, hoping to acquire the respectability sought by his society-girl sweetheart. She spurns him, however, when his writing is rejected by several magazines and when he is falsely accused of being a socialist. She tries to win him back after he achieves fame, but Eden realizes her love is false. Financially successful and robbed of connection to his own class, aware that his quest for bourgeois respectability was hollow, Eden travels to the South Seas. Martin Eden is an intelligent and self-educated young man who wants nothing more that to be accepted by (and to be like) the young, educated rich he sees as a struggling writer in turn-of-the 20th century Northern California. Martin is certain that once in the ranks of these beautiful people (who speak in casual conversation of Greek myth and French poetry), he will finally be happy... He uncomfortably accepts the rude comments from these rich snobs, resolves to rise to their level and falls in love with a woman he feels is as a goddess walking the Earth... His true education comes swiftly: He "makes it" as a writer, and the man once seen as an interesting ape is now the talk of the town... It's the petty shallowness of the glittering world he had admired from afar that he's utterly unprepared for. This is a story of a person climbing the fence to the greener grass and finding it was all an illusion....and that he has nowhere else to go. Not a pretty picture, but very well painted by Mr. London.--Submitted by Lowell

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Recent Forum Posts on Martin Eden


I have read it when I was 17. A long time ago. Now I would love to do it again , now reading in its original language-English. This Novel is one of my favorites without a doubt. I enjoed London's other novels as well. However, Martin Eden is the book I love the most. I read it at the time I was strugling in live, in love and in society in general. I still have not found a place to hide in this great big world of sadness; people are all the same, nothing has changed since London wrote this hearbreaking novel. I regard London as highly passionate and life-loving person who contemplated about life in the way I would do. Great story of Martin Eden helped me to move on and live a life without expectations!!!

Posted By trush at Tue 24 May 2005, 5:07 PM in Martin Eden || 0 Replies

Martin Eden

I write in reply to the comment submitted which begins "In my view,Eden is too mentally weak to go on living in the tiresome society...", which fails to realise that 'Martin Eden' is a fundamentally flawed, though brilliant and inspired, novel. Eden has to die because he is not a socialist at heart, like London himself (who built a sprawling ranch with the profits from books which included Marxist tracts and novels, and came under heavy fire from the American socialist contingent for doing so). He is London himself in the beginning, and doesn't have suicide in him. London was able to live as an outsider perfectly well until his early death (he may have killed himself, but only because his body was an agonising, failing wreck after several lifetimes of drink and adventure compacted into half a lifetime), despite what he knew to be his inner-contradictions (socialism Vs. a consciously Nietzschean will to power). Eden is not weak-minded either; but London couldn't appease his readership by making a happy outsider of him in the end, so he killed him off. Therein lies the inconsistency, the flaw. Vitality like that might destroy itself, but it doesn't kill itself through despair. The relish London takes in the suicide of Eden is in fact an expression of his longing for escape from the pains of his wasted body. If we look closely, we can see his reluctance to drown Martin Eden.
This flaw makes for a fascinating book, though.
Roger Davidson

Posted By Unregistered at Sat 21 Feb 2004, 12:00 AM in Martin Eden || 3 Replies

my view on his character

In my view,Eden is too mentally weak to go on leaving in the tiresome society,though he is quite persevere and strong-minded.
After painstaking struggle,he suceeded at last ,thus he conquered all the difficulties in his making a career and he conquered the bougeoise society.But to my disappointment,he couldn't conquer his own characteristics, not knowing that no society is optimal and no life is optmistic/active all the time.We should strong enough,especially mentally,to tolerate or to change the unjustice side when facing a sordid and dirty society, other than to withdraw , whether excluding or dying. Nothing could be achieved this way.

Posted By PQ at Tue 24 May 2005, 5:07 PM in Martin Eden || 0 Replies

The tragedy of Martin Eden

All through the whole novel,I marveled at Martin's steel-like will,especially his peseverence to his own dream,though continously confronted with frustration and disappointment.Despite his success after all he had gone through,his life ended in a pathetic tragedy.I think the problem lies in the way he had chosen,can't say it's wrong,but may not be the one he actually dreamed.What he had spared all his effort to persue is the truth of beauty of the literature.And this kind of beauty may be above all the people's head.That's why so many artists and writers suffered criticism and despise after they devoted all their life to their cause.But Martin is in some way differet from them in that when the fame was crowded to him,he had already been tired of it.All his force to realise his dream comed from Rose,who from the very beginning,was only an illusion or an idealised goddess for Martin.Their position of the social status made their love destined to die like a flower in a flash.When Martin realised all this,he felt so desperate in that all his lifetime pursuit comed to nothing but a stroke of smoke.And in the meantime,he found he had lost so far away that he couldnot even return to the past life.At last,he had no way to end his own controversial and meloncholy life.

Posted By letitia at Tue 24 May 2005, 5:07 PM in Martin Eden || 2 Replies

I loved it!

This book is dear to me. Personally I liked the Jack London's novel Martin Eden! It greatly appealed to me! I was touched to the heart... I think that Martin committed suicide because he did not see the aim to continue leaving in the world he had got accustomed to, firstly he jumped into the water- thought to get on board again- but then he gave a sarcastic smile to the whole world, full of snobs and careerists ... he was sorry to had been working, writing for them to read, and found it to be a disgrace... These little people just did not deserve to be the witnesses of his works. Unfortunately he understood it too late to change- it was too late- he cracked himself- he gave the life into their disposal and available to be discussed! It is unfair and this story rang true to me, I read it with an open heart and I regretted too much that I cannot back him or help living in another world, century, country, living another life...! The world is as crazy as it has always been- it’s not in my power to change it! But Martin protested against the society it some way, though it is not my way to struggle. Reading of this story was a worth experience. It was one of the keys to the door called society to open realizing its real nature.

Posted By Ekaterina at Tue 24 May 2005, 5:07 PM in Martin Eden || 0 Replies

No Subject

I loved the book. One of my feelings is about Martin is that even though he managed to educate himself well, I think that it went to his head, and began to presume that he was somehow more intelligent then almost everyone that he ran into, sides for the few people that agreed with his way of thought. The one exception to this is when he and his friend visited the group of down and outs in the slums of San Fran that were having thier nightly philosophy discussions.

Posted By Dragoro at Tue 24 May 2005, 5:07 PM in Martin Eden || 0 Replies

No Subject

I read this novel by chance. it is a great novel from the content or the ideas which wants to express his opinion to the readers. it worth reading several times. you can get different ideas in differert time of time of you life,if you reread it . how realistic is Martin'sdream of becoming a writer?

Posted By Unregistered at Tue 24 May 2005, 5:07 PM in Martin Eden || 0 Replies

A book for every age and nationality

I am neither American nor English so I want you to forgive me my grammar and spelling mistakes.I am a teenager and you may think that it is rediculous to comment such an incredible book.But in my opinion ''Martin Eden" is a book for every nationality and age if you have a heart and a soul to understand its problems.This book touches you deeply and makes you think about what really worths living for and dying for.After you had read it you asked a lot of quuuestions yourself.For example"Did I make my best choice for work?I earn a lot of money but my heart is not here.I am dreaming for other job less paid but more close to me.Are reach and famous people so rich,happy and intellegent as they look.Or they are even more otdinary than us.They may have money but their souls may be empty."And many questions like these ones.After years they will be different and I will laugh myself.But I am sure this book will always be a part of my soul and will keep me asking questions and searching their answers because this is the point of life.

Posted By Den at Tue 24 May 2005, 5:03 PM in Martin Eden || 0 Replies

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