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

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How does Koskoosh die in "The Law of Life", and how was his death expected?

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In "The Law of Life" by American writer and journalist Jack London, the main character old Koskoosh dies, or is about to die, by a pack of wolves who are now encircling him. Hunger is in the wolves’ entire beings, and they have an unrelenting instinct to satisfy their most basic needs. The chief of the tribe is Koskoosh’s son as he is of more vigor and strength and agility. Old Koskoosh was once the chief of this tribe, but his time of power has now come and gone.

Koskoosh was expected to die by slowly freezing to death. He could no longer contribute to the tribe, and the tribe had to carry on for its own survival without him. He would be an impediment to the progress of the tribe in forging out a survival path for itself. It was the custom of their tribe to operate in this manner.

Koskoosh is left behind to freeze to death and enter a peaceful death sleep. He has come to terms with this. He relates that he was born close to terra firma – the earth; had lived close to the earth with the tribe; and now, would die close to the earth and the elements thereupon. He remembers how the wolves killed in the past, as experienced in his younger hunting days.

He knows the wolves will complete their task now and kill him. Accepting this, he wearily drops his head to his knees and awaits his death after a long life with his family and tribe.

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In London's "The Law of Life," Koskoosh is expected to freeze to death, most likely, to starve, or to be killed and eaten by animal predators.

In the society of the story, everyone is expected to contribute to the tribe.  Once a person cannot contribute, he is left behind when the tribe moves, and it is expected that he will die.

Koskoosh is no exception.  He is left to die.  He is expecting to freeze, but in the end, wolves find him, and he is about to be attacked and eaten as the story ends.

This of course seems extremely harsh by us in our world of social security and medicare and welfare, etc., but in the tribe of the story, the tribe's survival depends on everyone contributing.

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