I haven’t read many books about writers, but amongst the ones that I have…this one is my favorite. It tells the story of a simple young man who, having saved a member of the upper class’ live, is introduced to a young, well-educated lady. He, of course, falls in love with her immediately and realizes just how unworthy he is. Thus Martin Eden decides to learn to read, and to write; all so he can be closer to the lovely Ruth, that he can talk with her and be worthy of her. His mind is like a sponge — fertile land to the roots of knowledge and of ideas, complicated, conflicting ideas about man’s nature; and soon enough, he decides on becoming a writer.
But it isn’t an easy road, is it? No, it’s not, and no novel could show the hardships of that road–the dangers–better than Martin Eden could.
But what else is this book?
Martin Eden is, in some ways, an autobiographical work which incorporates a number of Jack London’s experiences, with Ruth Morse – Martin’s love interest – being modeled after the author’s first love, Mabel Applegarth. It also serves to illustrate London’s disillusionment with the publishing industry of his time.
Martin Eden illustrates the clash between individualism and collectivism, with the eponymous character being a firm believer in Spencer and Nietzche’s philosophical views. The novel is, nevertheless, a very stark criticism of just these views, which eventually lead Eden to losing his very ability to enjoy life, to feel alive.
Martin Eden is, also, a story of wrong and misguided perceptions, and the toll of consequent realizations – it’s a simple thing to chalk it off as a tale of failed romance, but I never read it like one.
Martin Eden is a tale of madness and sacrifice and of success, and of what comes after. A gripping narrative that will hold you fast and hold you tight until the very last page. It will be worth it.