The People of the Abyss

The People of the Abyss

by Jack London

From the author's preface: "The experiences related in this volume fell to me in the summer of 1902. I went down into the underworld of London with an attitude of mind which I may best liken to that of the explorer. I was open to be convinced by the evidence of my eyes, rather than by the teachings of those who had not seen, or by the words of those who had seen and gone before. Further, I took with me certain simple criteria with which to measure the life of the underworld. That which made for more life, for physical and spiritual health, was good; that which made for life, which hurt, and dwarfed, and distorted life, was bad."

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 4.02
  • Pages: 208
  • Publish Date: September 1st 2006 by Aegypan
  • Isbn10: 1598189735
  • Isbn13: 9781598189735

What People Think about "The People of the Abyss"

This is a remarkable classic, deserving of a place on the shelf right next to Orwells Down and Out in Paris and London. If the reader can put aside the fact of Londons strange ambivalence in matters of race, he is an impassioned and articulate spokesman for the underclasses.

Families were forced into poverty and sometimes starvation when the husband, the main breadwinner, was injured, became ill or died. More than a century ago when this book was written, when a man was out of work due to illness or injury, his wife was unable to adequately support the family because the only jobs open to her paid too little. As the cost of housing during the last real estate bubble, reached stratospheric levels, families were forced to pay more and more of their income for housing, leaving little to actually live on. We have laws governing the workplace and a social safety net that prevents the worst of the gruesome results of illness and unemployment described in this book.

Ma la situazione mi è "sembrata" identica, allora mi chiedo: "Ma la civiltà, il progresso, l'evoluzione, sono questo?", oppure "C'è gente, quindi, di serie A e di serie B?", oppure, infine, "L'egoismo è la prima caratteristica dell'essere umano?" "In una civiltà prettamente materialistica, basata sulla proprietà e non sull'uomo, è inevitabile che si esalti la proprietà rispetto all'uomo e che i crimini contro di essa siano considerati molto più gravi di quelli contro la persona."

I find myself amazed and honestly a little depressed that a book published in 1903 about the poor of London can seem so relevant today. For instance, one of the more poignant sections involves his description of "The Thing," which is a metaphorical stand-in for the event or accident occurring in one of these people's lives that pulls them fully into the Abyss, the inescapable swamp of abject poverty that hundreds of thousands of East Londoners found themselves in. Then, The Thing happens: his boss dies in a freak accident, and now the workman has no work. But beyond this bit of slightly confusing math, this book truly draws you in to the world of these people, and makes you think about how the cycle (or The Thing) can affect so many people in our own society.

And because of unions and the socialist party, we have minimum wage, social security, and welfare to provide a safety net for the kind of problems Jack London explores in this book.

London, jeune journaliste américain se fait passer pour un marin en rupture de ban pour pouvoir simmerger totalement dans les bas-fonds de lest londonien et vit comme ses habitants. Clair, intéressant, London raconte avec une certaine ironie les problèmes rencontrés par les pauvres et qui les mènent à ces situations terribles. Il parle avec les gens, tente de se loger, de manger, de passer une nuit à lasile. La description des asiles est également terrifiante : lhygiène et la nourriture sont insuffisants mais les vagabonds nont pas dautre choix que de sy rendre car la police les empêche de dormir dans les rues ou les parcs et sils ne trouvent pas une place dans un asile, ils sont condamnés à marcher toute la nuit. Les jeunes survivent plus ou moins bien mais malheur à qui est vieux et seul sans soutien ! Il dénonce aussi la justice absurde qui condamne les tentatives de suicide alors quelle est tolérante avec certaines formes de violences.

I was a young Republican in my early adult life and then began to observe how our first-world society works and more importantly, read about how it used to be. London once said that this was his most purposeful book, indicating, No other book of mine took so much of my young heart and tears as that study of the economic degradation of the poor." After reading The People of the Abyss, I easily find an appreciation for Londons work and certainly see its value in my modern observations of todays society.

Jack London was an American novelist, journalist, social-activist and short-story writer whose works deal romantically with elemental struggles for survival.