Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 260
Martin Eden is a story about class and being conflicted with your identity. If you’re writing an assignment about these or other related themes, there are plenty of quotes in the book that can help you out, including many by the lead character.
For example, at one point he says to himself in the mirror:
Who are you Martin Eden . . . you belong with the oxen and the drudges, in dirty surroundings among smells and stenches . . . Who are you? And what are you? . . . And are you going to make good?
Quotes like these can help show just how tortured Martin is by trying to understand himself. The expression "make good" refers to his desire to elevate himself. He grew up and became a poor sailor among the lower classes, but then gave himself an education outside of the traditional institutions. In time, he managed to claw his way into a higher society, but this uncertainty stayed with him.
Almost any characteristic you might seek to establish with proof from the text can be found there. For example, there’s this quote:
Every book was a peep-hole into the realm of knowledge. His hunger fed upon what he read, and increased.
You can use quotes like this one to establish the intense curiosity of Martin. His driving need to break into the realm of those who had money and learning. And yet, when he becomes as knowledgeable as they are, they still had trouble understanding him. Martin ends up being a man apart, unable to fully fit into either class anymore.
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