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Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 275

What is a literary classic and why are these classic works important to the world?

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A literary classic is a work of the highest excellence that has something important to say about life and/or the human condition and says it with great artistry. A classic, through its enduring presence, has withstood the test of time and is not bound by time, place, or customs. It speaks to us today as forcefully as it spoke to people one hundred or more years ago, and as forcefully as it will speak to people of future generations. For this reason, a classic is said to have universality.

Jack London was born in San Francisco, California, on January 12, 1876. His father deserted his family when he was still a child, and London was raised by his mother and stepfather in Oakland, CA. At the age of 14, London left school for a life on the road. For five years, he worked as a seaman, rode in freight trains along the West Coast, and became an avid member of the Socialist Party. At 19, though, he dedicated himself to self-education in public libraries and gained admission to the University of California-Berkeley as a special student. During this time, he began to write short stories and political essays.

In 1901, he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Oakland. Following the defeat, he shifted his attention to writing longer works, including The Call of the Wild (1903), The Sea-Wolf (1904), White Fang (1906), and Burning Daylight (1910). London became one of his generation's most prolific writers, exploring the cultures and geographies of the Yukon, California, the South Pacific, and England. He died on his ranch of kidney disease on November 22, 1916.

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