The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Jack London wrote The Iron Heel in 1907 as a diary that records the events in Avis Everhard’s life during a period of revolution in the United States (1912-1917). During this period, the democratic system ends, capitalism fails, and a fascist oligarchy called The Iron Heel seizes control. The foreword is written seven hundred years later by a fictional narrator, Anthony Meredith, who lives under a socialist government in a fictional city, Ardis. Meredith, from the perspective of futurity, supplies numerous historical footnotes and explains that Avis diary is found in a hollow oak centuries after it was written. In the foreword, Meredith informs readers that The Iron Heel ruled for three centuries, during which time there were many revolts, all drowned in seas of blood. A socialist system succeeded this fascist oligarchy.

In the diary, Avis describes her romance with Ernest Everhard, a socialist revolutionary, and their struggles against The Iron Heel. The diary begins with their first encounter, at a dinner hosted by her father, a liberal college professor who also invites numerous intellectuals and clergymen. A strong-willed, self-educated man from the working class, Ernest both infuriates and fascinates Avis and the guests. He accuses Avis, the ministers, and the professors of merely feigning sympathy toward the working class, asserting that they live on the workers’ blood. To prove their ignorance, he challenges them, in particular Avis,...

(The entire section is 573 words.)