Jack London

Jack London
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.49

     challenging words:    determined, output, demonic, suffrage, unemployment, acceptance, unsuccessful, correspondent, unemployed, alcoholism, alcoholic, avid, suicide, militant, uninsured, teen
     content words:    Jack London, John Griffith Chaney, San Francisco, Flora Wellman, John London, Once London, Dawson City, Klondike Gold Rush, Yukon Territory, Overland Monthly

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Jack London
By Jamie Kee

1     Jack London, born John Griffith Chaney, was an American novelist, short story writer, and adventurer. His writings focused on the power of nature and the struggle for survival, but he dealt with these topics in a romantic way. London took a number of his adventurers and translated them into works of fiction enhanced by his own experiences and his unique writing style.
2     London was born in 1876 in San Francisco, California. He was raised by Flora Wellman, an unmarried mother from a wealthy background. London was abandoned by his father, but his mother later married John London, and young John took on his surname. The family lived around the Bay area and eventually settled in Oakland. London's father attempted to become a storekeeper, but he failed in this endeavor, so young John and his family grew up in poverty. London's later accounts, however, exaggerated his family's level of poverty.
3     London attended grade school in Oakland. He became an avid reader at the age of ten and would regularly borrow books from the public library. As an adolescent, John assumed the name of Jack and from that point forward would be known as Jack London. In order to escape poverty and experience adventure, Jack left school at the age of fourteen and worked for a while as a seaman. When he was unemployed, London became a hobo who rode in freight trains. He was able to see much of the country this way. At one point he was jailed for vagrancy. London also became a member of the protest armies of the unemployed and took on their socialistic views. As a teen, London became a militant socialist. During his years of adventure as well as unemployment, London became determined to get himself out of poverty. His experiences during this time in his life also gave London material for his later writings.
4     Because he didn't have much formal education, London spent much of his time reading in public libraries. He read and studied fiction, political science, philosophy, poetry, and other fields. When he was nineteen, London was admitted to the University of California in Berkeley. He had already started writing, and had previously submitted stories, jokes, and poetry to various publications, but was mostly unsuccessful. Once London was admitted to the university, he began coming up with more writing ideas. He didn't, however, finish his first year of school. Instead, London left for Dawson City in order to seek his fortune in the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 in the Yukon Territory of Canada. As was true of many people, he was unsuccessful. London decided to stay in the Yukon through the winter, and he returned to San Francisco in the spring with notebooks full of story ideas and dreams of becoming a writer.
5     The story ideas developed during London's winter in the Yukon grew into multiple stories that he began publishing in the Overland Monthly and Atlantic Monthly. He studied magazines and established a regular schedule of producing pieces such as adventure stories, horror stories, ballads, sonnets, and anecdotes. London continued his output of writings. Even though his earlier works were often crude forms of his later works, London was still beginning to gain acceptance because of the fresh subject matter. His first book, The Son of the Wolf (1900), reached a wide audience.

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