Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 264
Martin Eden by Jack London offers insights on the American social class structure during the early- to mid-20th century, which is still relevant today. The protagonist is a representative of the lower-class, having worked a blue-collar job before deciding to become a writer. He falls in-love with a young woman from the upper-class society of San Francisco.
Due to these relations and experiences, Martin is able to observe the full spectrum of the American social class. His sister even gives him insights into the then-growing American middle-class. The work that Martin used to do and the career he decided to embark upon are symbolic as well.
When he was a sailor, he lived a more carefree lifestyle. When he embarked on his career as a writer, there were industry and social pressures to excel. However, Martin soon found that being a writer was more difficult than being a sailor. The writing process is lonely and the publishing industry, he soon found out, was corrupt and exploitative.
The novel also explores the cut-throat culture and pretentiousness of the art and literary world. When he was being rejected by publishing companies, and the woman he fell in love with began to lose faith in him, he realized that people's perception of others is fickle. When he became successful, his detractors, including Ruth, acted as if they had always supported him.
The novel also examines how individuals perceive their place in society. For instance, when Martin realized that his writing career was built on illusions of celebrity and synthetic social relationships, he decided to commit suicide.
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