Student Question

In Jack London's "The Law of Life," how do Koskoosh's final hours compare to the treatment of today's elders?

Expert Answers

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Jack London's "The Law of Life" depicts a society far removed from ours today.  The tribe in the story does not have medicare or medicaid or social security.  In London's naturalistic, fictional world a person is required to contribute to the tribe's survival.  Notice how the tribesmen grumbled when the missionary did not bring in any meat, but ate heartily.  Koskoosh considers it justice when he thinks about how the missionary became sick, died, and was eaten by dogs.  When a member can no longer contribute to the tribe's welfare, he must be abandoned.  In this case, he is left alone in the snow and cold with a small pile of wood.  It is expected that he will freeze to death.

Koskoosh considers this just, too.  The only law nature has for the individual is that the individual must die.  It is the same for a rabbit or a leaf.  All must die.  It doesn't matter, Koskoosh suggests. 

Perhaps ironically, one similarity between the world of the tribe and our world today is a negative one.  The elderly in both societies are often forgotten by the young, as Koskoosh's granddaughter neglects to think of him and add a few more logs to his wood pile.

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