The novel The Iron Heel is a dystopian novel by Jack London about an attempt to overthrown the ruling oligarchic government in America. The novel is a story within a story, narrated by two narrators: Anthony Meredith and Avis Everhard.
London's narrative begins with a foreword by Anthony Meredith, written about 700 years after Avis Everhard wrote her narrative. In the foreword, Meredith begins by saying that 'The Everhard Manuscript' could not be considered as an important historical or even biographical novel, but its importance lies in that it describes the socio-political and economic situation of the turbulent period between the years 1912 and 1932, which is the period covered by the manuscript. The manuscript is narrated in the first person by Avis Everhard and was written by her in the Wake Robin Lodge during the last days of preparation for the Second Revolt. It ends abruptly in mid-sentence, with Meredith explains saying that in a moment of danger, before she fled or was captured by the Mercenaries, she hid the Manuscript in the hollow oak at Wake Robin Lodge, where it lay hidden for 700 years. Meredith gives footnotes for the manuscript throughout the novel where explanations are needed.
The Everhard Manuscript begins with the first time Avis Everhard (nee Cunningham) met socialist revolutionary Ernest Everhard, which was at a private dinner at her father Dr. John Cunningham's house at Berkeley. Though he creates an unfavorable impression in her due to his shabby appearance and his behavior, he is impressed when she hears him speak and debate with the other guests. she remains unconvinced about his theories though, till later when she investigates a case he mentions, about a man named Johnson. Johnson was a man who worked in a mill, who had lost his arm while trying to save a machinery. But rather than being thanked, he is thrown out of the job, as the mill would not have much use for him anymore, without an arm. When the incident is brought to court the witnesses are manipulated to give false witness, and Johnson is blamed for carelessness, though all the witnesses and lawyers admit to Avis personally that Johnson was not to blame. Avis tries to bring out the injustice done to Johnson but is unable to do anything about it, as nobody is ready to speak, being concerned about their own families, in spite of knowing the truth. She even tries writing to the newspapers, but even they reject her article, being bribed by the oligarchy.
It is then she realizes that Ernest Everhard was right about the capitalist indifference to the proletariat workers. After this, she gets more involved with him and his ideology and the revolution. Around this time, her father Dr. John Cunningham, a professor at the State University at Berkley' and Bishop Morehouse, a family friend of the Cunningham's also get convinced by Ernest Everhard's theories and ideologies, in spite of being doubtful at first. As they get more involved, the Oligarchy keeps working furiously too, to keep a revolution at bay. Revolts which take place are immediately suppressed. Dr. Cunningham loses his job and is forced out of his home. Bishop Morehouse is declared insane and gets sent to an asylum, from where he later escapes.
The planning for the first revolt goes on. Ernest decides to run for Congress in the Fall elections. It is around this time that Avis Cunningham and Ernest Everhard marry. In the fall of 1912, Ernest gets elected to Congress in a landslide victory. But then he is framed for an attempted bombing attempt in the Congress and gets jailed. Avis is also jailed but is released after six months without being charged for any crime. Soon after this, she goes into hiding and changes her identity to avoid spies. Around this time Dr. Cunningham disappears. In spite of being separate, Avis and Ernest continue their plans for the First Revolt with enthusiasm.
The revolt was planned for the spring of 1918. They planned to blow up the important buildings and offices and stations and capture major officers in the Oligarchy, to topple the whole government completely, all over the country. The plot is discovered by the Oligarchy though, and Avis immediately leaves for Chicago, the storm-center of the revolt, on realizing that it would have to be sacrificed. The revolution is forsaken in all the other places. Avis meets Ernest at Chicago and they witness the destruction of the city and deaths of thousands, including Bishop Morehouse. Many are questioned and executed on the spot, and bombs and explosions fill the city.
Some weeks after the first revolution, Ernest Everhard and the other leaders start reorganizing the Revolutionists. The novel ends here abruptly, and in mid-sentence, and Meredith suggests that she must have received warning of the arrival of mercenaries, and so she immediately hid the manuscript and escaped or was captured.