“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
I remember reading Call of the Wild and Smoke Bellew as part of an assignment pushed upon me by my father when I was about 13-years-old. At the time, you could say, I was less than appreciative. It was all I could do not to fall asleep face down in the pages (forgive me, Mr. London). I wanted nothing more than to choose my own books to read- why take time reading these boring old stories about The Gold Rush when I lived in a world so far removed from such lifestyles? I didn’t care what happened to Buck- why was the main character a dog, anyhow? And why in the world would anyone choose to go by the name Smoke?
However, after all these years, perhaps I now realize that making me read these novels was not actually a form of slow educational torture in an attempt to bore me to death. In reality, my dad was only trying to encourage me to always seek to broaden my horizons and allow different ideas and lifestyles to be explored. I may have no tangible connection to traversing the Great White North, but the inequalities that exist between classes, the idea of free will, or even the concept of surviving with what you are given are evident in my world as much as it was London’s. Perhaps not much has really changed- just the scenery and my ability to appreciate my dad’s suggestions and guidance. In the end, I am left realizing that Jack London was a sort of social activist of his time, and perhaps my dad saw the potential in the 13-year-old version of me. So, Mr. London, I do apologize for my younger self. I should not have been bored to tears by your work, but rather awakened to the commentary written within the pages.