Jack London

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The Law Of Life Summary

what are the conflicts in the story "the law of life" by jack london?

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Scott David eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The primary conflicts which drive this story are man vs. self, man vs. nature and man vs. society. In "The Law of Life", Jack London muses on the harsh cruelty of nature and the inevitability of death, as he depicts an aged tribesman abandoned to die.

In some respects, I would suggest that the conflicts of man vs. nature and man vs. society are intertwined in this story: after all, Koskoosh's tribe abandons the elderly to die precisely because it views them as burdensome amid the harshness of their environment. Meanwhile, as he waits for death, Koskoosh himself reflects heavily upon nature itself. As Koskoosh sees it, nature is cruel and cares nothing for individuals and their desire to survive. This theme is reiterated in the story's ending. It closes on an image of predation, with Koskoosh killed by a pack of wolves.

At the same time, this is also a story driven by man vs. self, in the ways in which Koskoosh faces his own advanced age and blindness, and moreover, his own swiftly approaching death. This story is deeply reflective in tone, with its protagonist reminiscing about the past and pondering such subjects as the harshness of nature and the inevitability of death, here in these final moments of his life. With this tone and subject matter, Jack London relies heavily on the conflict of man vs. self.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The three conflicts in "The Law of Life" are the following:  man vs. himself (or, more specifically, body vs. mind), man vs. man (or, more specifically, father vs. son), and man vs. nature (or, more specifically, man vs. snow) in that exact order. 

First, there can be no doubt that the main conflict is man vs. man.  Koskoosh's old and withering body is conflicting with his mind's desire to stay alive.  Koskoosh spends the entire story continuing to value his life as he is left to die in the snow (just as Koskoosh had left his OWN father to die in the snow). 

It is well. I am as a last year's leaf, clinging lightly to the stem. The first breath that blows, and I fall. My voice is become like an old woman's. My eyes no longer show me the way of my feet, and my feet are heavy, and I am tired. It is well.

In regards to man vs. man, we can't deny (as readers) that SOMEONE has left Koskoosh out to die.  That man just happens to be his son.  Even though Koskoosh's son is simply following the tribe's protocol to leave...

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Michael Ugulini eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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gsenviro | Student

Jack London's "The law of life" (1901) is the story of an old tribesman, Koskoosh, who has been left out by his tribe, because he's old and useless, to die out in the snow. Koskoosh's last minutes bring back to memory his chase and experience of a moose who was left out by the pack, was chased by wolves and presented multiple stands but in the end succumbed. The conflict here is the struggle of a man to stay alive against all the odds, while also accepting that end is inevitable. Koskoosh recalls many old men and children who die during his term as the tribe chief and remembers how he left his own father out in the snow. He compares life to a girl, who first blossoms and then withers, same as human life. He also knows that to leave old, infirm and similarly useless people is the tribe's tradition. Yet in the backdrop of all this, he's still clinging to life and the hopes that maybe his son will come back. The internal struggle/conflict of letting go of life is the underlying theme of this short story.  

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