The Iron Heel Background

The Iron Heel Background

The Iron Heel is a dystopian novel written by Jack London and published in 1908. What, you may ask, is a dystopian novel? It is actually a cautionary tale; a dystopian novel pains a picture of an initially idealized futuristic society that becomes repressive and is presented as a caution to people in the present day warning that if society continues along its current path then the repressive society portrayed on the pages will result. This novel is considered to be the earliest example of modern dystopian fiction. It tells the tale of an oligarchic tyrannical state in the U.S.A. although it is futuristic, and is in the style of early science fiction novels, the novel deals primarily with futuristic politics and not with technological advances that might have taken place. It is also London's most political novel and really the only one that reveals his left-leaning views.

Another aspect of the novel that makes it stand out as different in London's published works is the fact that it is written in the first person with a female narrator. It was rarely seen at the time of writing that a male author would write from a perspective. The novel's plot covers the years 1912-1932 and presents an oligarchy in every continent. This oligarchy is known as the Iron Heel. In America this Iron Heel maintains control until the Brotherhood of Man starts a successful revolution and overthrows them. London believes in this prediction of a series of revolts which did not occur but he did actually predict the time at which international relations became the most tense (World War One broke out in 1914).

This is one of London's most influential novels and is said to have inspired George Orwell's "1984". Orwell was a great admirer of the American novelist and credited him with prophesying the rise of Fascism. Frederic Tuten also used "The Iron Heel" as inspiration; he quotes extensively from it in his novel "The Adventures of Mao on the Long March".

Jack London is one of America's most respective novelists. His two most famous novels are set in the Klondike gold rush, "White Fang" and "Call of the Wild". As his career progressed he became involved with a radical literary group living in San Francisco, known as "The Crowd", who were passionate advocates of unionization and socialism. It was during this association that "The Iron Heel" was penned. Plagued all of his writing career by accusations of plagiarism (accusations that were not without merit since by his own admission he used chunks of other people's writing as the basis for much of his work) he was accused of using Frank Harris' 1901 publication "The Bishop Of London and Public Morality" as Chapter Seven of The Iron Heel. Harris suggested a One-sixtieth royalty payment should be directed his way; however, London refused, stating that because he had believed that the speech was genuinely given by the Bishop of London and not written by Harris then he had plagiarized unintentionally and therefore, was not subject to the usual rules.

London died young in November 1916 and his ashes buried close to the Wolf House. The area was subsequently preserved as Jack London State Historic Park, in Glen Ellen, California.

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