In story “The Law of Life”, Jack London seeks to identify the law of life, which to him seems to be eternal. The life set one law: “To perpetuate was the task of life, its law was death” (London, “The Law of Life”). This is a story full of the influence of naturalism, Darwinism and philosophy.
This is a story about the old chief, who was left by the tribe to die at a fading fire, because the famine forced the Indians to rush to the places where more food is available. For the tribe, the sick old man became simply a burden. Koskoosh`s son leaves his father in the realm of white snowy desert, because tribal chief`s duty calls him to sacrifice the life of his old father for the salvation of his people. Koskoosh recollects in his memory that once he also abandoned his father in the upper reaches of the Klondike. This is the law of life: in the struggle for survival young and strong people win, but the old and sick are doomed. This law is universal: it acts both in the world of animals and people living in any part of the world. The death of the hero is treated as a natural link in the evolution of the human race. This law is the bases of immortality of the mankind.
Jack London critically describes the severity of the nature describing it as one of the main heroes of the story personifying it and addressing it with “she”. For Jack London extreme nature conditions mean a survival of the person under hostile nature conditions, which is described through severity of the climate, nature and the indigenous people of the North. This hostility or indifference of nature is a pretext for the author`s reasoning about human impermanence, the illusory nature of his material goals – in short, for a number of philosophical and psychological generalizations.
The hostility of nature is also proof of the theory on the harmfulness and "inorganic nature" of a civilized man who, not being able to fit into the original world, destroys it by violating the natural balance. There are no white people in this story. In “The Law of Life”, there are only indigenous people of the North showed as the opposition to the “white” selfish and brutal people. Indigenous tribe people described in the story are spiritually pure, hence – vulnerable to the power of a non-spiritual civilization, but not vulnerable to the power of nature. They know the main law of life and do not resist it.
Jack London shows the Indians as extremely cruel individuals showing no mercy even to their parents. However, they are such for purpose. They exist in the nature, which is not merciful for them as well. Such a nature constantly surrounds them, which justifies their cruelty. The nature is an inalienable part of the life of indigenous people which developed severity in them as well. In the very end of "The Law of Life" old Eskimo Koskoosh melancholy reflects on this very law, and finds it justice. For centuries, it preconditioned the existence of their tribes as an ethnic group.
In the last hours on earth Koskoosh look back at his life, and the most relentless remembrance is the death of the old mighty moose, whom was cut off from the herd by wolves and hunted down. Back then, being a child, this occurrence struck Koskoosh dramatically, but the experience of past years convinced him that this was the law of life: “Nature did not care. To life she set one task, gave one law”. Koskoosh almost did not resist, when a ring of wolves started shrinking around Koskoosh`s dying fire.
The North unusually sharpened London`s attention to the biological aspect of life. It was all in the spirit of the times. He emphasizes on the belief that the relations between people, generations, races, nations are subject not only to social laws, but the same "law of life": young, strong, better adapted often win, but there comes a time when they have to give in incessant struggle for existence. This idea does not tolerate the humanism which was widespread in the times of Jack London making this author a different one.
Under the conditions of northern severity people could survive only by leading a heavy and continuous struggle against the harsh nature. Their everyday contact with this nature made them feel the respect for its law. The nature largely impacted them as individuals. Jack London perfectly knew this because he lived there and observed this in person. He was one of the first writers of the XX century, who felt that in the depths of consciousness a new view of man's place on earth was forming, and tried to convince average readers through stories he was writing.
Finally, it shall be noted that another allegory can be noticed in the “Law of Life”. Jack London correctly predicted that the planet would be irreversible, "shrinking", as the ring of wolves was shrinking around Koskoosh. People living in a world covered with a dense network of cities, railroads, telegraph and telephone communications already start in a completely new way feeling the kinship of all living creatures, and start valuing the world order created by the nature, the world order that they put on the brink of disaster with the use of reckless "enhancements".
London, J. The Law of Life. jacklondons.net. 1901. Web. 3 Feb. 2016.