illustrated portrait of American author Jack London with mountains in the background

Jack London

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Student Question

In Jack London's "The White Silence," which conflict best describes the situation?

Quick answer:

this is the conflict between a person and a force of society. To what extent can you agree with the following statements? 1. Jack London's short stories were not popular when they first appeared in magazines but were very successful when they were published as books later. 2. Jack London was an author, journalist and socialist. 3. He travelled to many places around the world to experience different cultures and people's lives. 4. As he did not know much about fishing, he learned from fishermen to write his famous novel "The Sea Wolf". 5.

Expert Answers

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It seems reasonable to say that the conflict is best described as one with the forces of nature. Indeed man versus nature is a common theme throughout Jack London's work, especially in his short stories. In "The White Silence," three people are slowly making their way across the frozen wastes of the Yukon trail. The environment is harsh and unforgiving—cold, lifeless and barren. Any journey in such a pitiless landscape is going to be a struggle against the often brutal forces of nature. And so it proves.

As the party of travelers pauses for a much-needed rest, an old tree falls down and crushes Mason, the man leading the journey. Just about every bone in his body has been broken, and it's just a matter of time before he passes away. Yet the Malemute Kid cheats nature of its final victory by shooting Mason dead instead of watching him die a slow, painful death in the snow. And in the figure of Mason's unborn child, still safe and warm inside Ruth, man scores another victory over nature. Ruth and her baby will undoubtedly live on, unvanquished by the icy wasteland.

The message of the story appears to be that, however harsh nature can sometimes get, however hard humankind may struggle against it, it cannot achieve a final victory over us. We must respect nature, neither exploiting it nor being overawed by it. The conflict with nature can never truly be won by either side; all that can be hoped for is some kind of reasonable accommodation.

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